Monday, 21 April 2014

Responsible social policy can solve Romani issue, activist says

14 November 2012

Prague, Nov 13 (CTK) - "Responsible social policy" could improve the situation of Romanies that is unfavourable all over Europe, Czech Helsinki Committee chairwoman Anna Sabatova said at yesterday's Czech presentation of a report released by the European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH).

She said political courage to speak against racism is lacking.

The report says Romanies in all European states face violence inflicted not only by individuals and extremist groups but often also by town halls and other authorities.

The states do not try hard enough to solve problems nor do they spend enough money on this purpose, the report says.

Romanies are the largest ethnic minority in Europe, comprising ten to 12 million people, the report recalls.

The number of Romanies in the 10.5-million Czech Republic is estimated at 250,000. About one-third of them live in socially excluded localities dubbed ghettos, where the adults are often jobless, the families live on welfare benefits and live in unsuitable conditions. Most kids attend "special schools" for children with learning difficulties. Usury flourishes in the ghettos.

The AEDH report describes the approaches and circumstances that are similar in all EU states. It mentions statesmen's anti-Romany rhetoric.

"Political parties have used anti-Roma slogans during municipal and legislative elections in the Czech Republic, in Italy, in Sweden, in Slovenia, and were very successful," the report writes.

On the other hand, it mentions the Czech government's successful effort to have the right extremist Workers' Party (DS) outlawed by court.

Authorities and institutions discriminate against Romanies. They forcibly move them out of their homes, transport them and segregate without respecting their rights, the report writes.

In many countries Romanies are not recognised as Holocaust victims, it says.

The police often behave violently towards Romanies as well. In some countries, Romany women were sterilised, including in recent years, the report writes, mentioning Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria in this connection.

"The Czech Republic is the only country where the government gave an apology to victims of illegal sterilisation. The government expressed, in November 2009, its regret of these 'mistakes', and in 2007, Iveta Cervenakova was the first Roma woman to be compensated by the Czech Supreme Court for her involuntary sterilisation. Unfortunately, this case remains unique," the report writes.

"In Slovakia, although the cases listed since the 1990's do not result from a deliberate governmental policy against Roma...the Slovak government does not take measures to stop these practices, and as of yesterday, it has not answered the victims' complaints," the report says.

It mentions physical attacks on Romanies in various countries.

"In this respect, the Czech Republic is unique only by the fact that no proved racist murder occurred there in the past decade," Frantisek Kostlan, from the Czech Helsinki Committee, said.

The AEDH report recalls the cases of offenders throwing Molotov cocktails in houses inhabited by Romanies.

It also mentions last year's anti-Romany demonstrations in northern Bohemia.

According to Kostlan, politicians' behaviour and populist utterances, as well as media, have contributed to the rising violence.

The AEDH report also focuses on "social violence" and says nine in ten European Romanies live below the line of poverty. In the Czech Republic, 30 percent of Romanies are short of money they need to buy food, the report writes, comparing the situation with other states.

Romanies have a worse access to health care, housing and education than their home countries' majority population, the report writes.

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