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Europe’s truly awful treatment of its Roma citizens

OP: The first article is focuses on Slovakia, the second on France's treatment of its Roma minority, although the post is meant to deal with all of Europe's treatment of the Roma people. (See also the additional links)
Government failing to educate, integrate Roma children

Slovakia's school system riddled with institutional racism, fails to prepare for life after school, rights groups say.

File: Roma children are discriminated at school from an early age, rights groups warn [David W Cerny/Reuters]

Romani children in Slovakia are segregated in schools, bullied by teachers and misdiagnosed as mentally disabled because of anti-Roma racism, according to human rights groups.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and Amnesty International said on Wednesday that Romani children in primary school aged between five and 11 were systematically denied their rights to education, trapping them in a "cycle of poverty and marginalisation".

The report comes almost two years after the European Commission launched infringement proceedings against Slovakia for discrimination and segregation in education.

"Slovakia's abject failure to address deeply ingrained prejudices within the education system is blighting the future of generations of Romani children from the moment they step into the classroom," said ERRC President Dorde Jovanovic.

There are as many as 500,000 Roma in Slovakia, mostly in the country's east and south, comprising almost 10 percent of the population.

"The piecemeal reforms and periodic declarations of intent by successive governments cannot obscure the fact that the discrimination and segregation of Roma in primary education remains widespread, and that the Slovak authorities are fundamentally failing to address them," the groups said in a joint report.

"Under national, European and international law, discrimination in the field of education is prohibited in Slovakia. However, in practice, Slovak authorities have not accompanied the ban on discrimination with concrete measures to address or prevent it," they added.


-Between 10 and 12 million Roma are estimated to live in Europe, with most in eastern parts of the continent

-With ancestral roots in India, the Roma migrated to Eastern Europe in the 10th century and have been persecuted throughout history

-After the fall of the Soviet Union and the break-up of Yugoslavia, many travelled west, seeking to escape poverty and discrimination

Roma in Slovakia are the second largest minority after Hungarians.

Wednesday's report was based on research carried out by the two groups in October and November in four regions: Sarisske Michalany; Moldava nad Bodvou; Rokycany and Krompachy.

Robert Kalinak, interior minister, said that programmes to "improve the situation" had been prepared as he accused the groups of exaggerating their claims on segregation, according to local media.

Institutional racism

Researchers visited six Romani settlements and studied dozens of schools.

While many in the country blame Roma for failing to encourage their children to attend schools, little attention is paid to institutional racism, the report said.

"Segregation of Romani children in mainstream primary schools persists in Slovakia, either in schools that are fully or primarily composed of Roma pupils, or in Roma-only classes," the report said.

"Romani children educated in mixed educational settings [including Romani and non-Roma children] often face racial prejudice and harassment by non-Roma classmates and teachers," it added, calling on the education ministry to address the issue.

At one school in Sarisske Michalany, a teacher told researchers that she would not send her own children to a school with Romani pupils.

"Did you see the children from Ostrovany [a school for Roma]? How they speak? How they smell? No wonder the non-Roma don't want to be with them … It's a little zoo," the teacher reportedly said.

Fabricating mental disability

According to a 2016 report by the state school watchdog, 21.74 percent of pupils reported the use of derogatory language, including anti-Roma slurs, by teachers in schools.

"In Slovakia, Romani children have been overrepresented in special schools and classes for children with 'mild mental disabilities' for decades," the report said.

"Many have been misdiagnosed … as a result of culturally biased diagnostic tools and anti-Roma prejudice among psychological and pedagogical experts. These children are condemned to low-quality education and limited opportunities for further education and employment."

The report also documented a so-called white flight, when non-Roma parents remove their children from schools when they feel there are too many Romani pupils.

"Romani children do not start education on an equal footing with non-Roma children and segregation entrenches inequality at every stage of their lives," the report said.

Dafina Savic, founder of Canada-based Romanipe, a group advocating for human rights of Roma, told Al Jazeera: "Segregation not only deprives young Roma from a normal educational experience, but also from eventually successfully integrating into society, since their misdiagnosis prevents them from accessing higher education and certain jobs."

Schools across Europe have failed to integrate Roma children, she added, describing persistent racial segregation.

"Roma are seated separately from non-Roma children, are placed at the back of the class, or are given a lower curriculum," Savic said. "Educational systems across Europe are not proving safe spaces for Roma children, first and foremost because teachers and administrative [staff] have their prejudices."

She said that abuse against Roma would only be wiped out when governments addressed a history of persecution, including slavery, genocide during the Holocaust and forced sterilisation.

"It is only then that the emancipation rather than the integration of Roma can occur," she said. "An essential step in challenging the root causes of anti-gypsyism today lies in giving Roma the opportunity to voice their interests and influence the decision-making process which affects them directly."


Thousands of Roma 'made homeless' in France in 2016

More than six in 10 Roma families forcibly evicted as persecution against community rises, civil rights groups report.


Up to 17,000 Roma live in makeshift camps across France [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]

More than 10,000 Roma were forcibly evicted by French authorities last year, with most ejections taking place during the cold winter months, according to a new report.

The European Roma Rights Centre and the Ligue des droits de L'Homme (Human Rights League of France) said on Tuesday that at least 60 percent of Romani families in the country were forced to leave their dwellings.

The majority of the recorded evictions took place without a court decision and, in most cases, adequate alternative accommodation was not offered to those made homeless, the groups said in a joint report.

"France's policy of ethnically targeted evictions creates cycles of repeat evictions and forced removals," the report said.

"It is also a significant squandering of financial and administrative resources. It is not only a morally bankrupt strategy, but one that is not in the best interests of taxpayers, whose contributions could far better be deployed to invest in social assessments and sustainable solutions for housing."

Almost 3,000 Roma were forced from their camps between October and December, a 17 percent increase from the previous quarter.

"Many Roma were evicted multiple times in 2016," the report said. "This unsustainable practice only worsens deep poverty and neglects the underlying housing problems."

Between 15,000 and 17,000 Roma live in poor conditions with little access to water and electricity in makeshift, illegal camps across France, according to the country's national census and NGOs.

Authorities often cite sanitary reasons for dismantling the camps.

Catrinel Motoc, anti-discrimination campaigner for Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera: "We have repeatedly called on the French authorities … to put an end to forced evictions and take a series of measures that would enable Roma to benefit from their right to adequate housing and not to be discriminated [against], as guaranteed by numerous international and regional human rights obligations that France ratified."

In June 2016, several organisations and agencies – including the Council of Europe and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – warned local authorities across the continent to provide Roma with "sustainable" housing, saying that children were at particular risk of trauma and social isolation because of evictions.

Soraya Post, human rights activist and Member of the European Parliament, told Al Jazeera: "Evictions of Roma are a clear violation of their human rights even if they are evicted from illegal settlements, as long as they are not offered any alternative. This [is] according to a decision in the European court of law. Sadly this is how Europe has always treated my people."

Racist attacks

In addition to being made homeless, Roma often face discrimination.

"Many incidents of hate speech and cases of discrimination against Romani people were reported," the groups said, which confirmed the need for policy "to address the plight of a stigmatised and deeply impoverished population to ensure … equal access to basic services".

Tuesday's report highlighted several racist attacks, including one in December against Jewish and Roma at the Anne Frank nursery school in an eastern suburb of Paris, Montreuil.

In an act of vandalism, "Juden verboten" (Jews forbidden) and "Sales Juifs et Roms" (Filthy Jewish and Romani people), were found painted on the front gate of the Anne Frank nursery, the report noted.

Between 10 and 12 million Roma are estimated to live in Europe, with most in eastern parts of the continent.

With ancestral roots in India, the Roma migrated to eastern Europe in the 10th century and have been persecuted throughout history.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and the break-up of Yugoslavia, many travelled west, seeking to escape poverty and discrimination.

In 2010, the European Union criticised France over a crackdown on illegal Roma camps launched by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In the same year, thousands of Roma were deported to Romania and Bulgaria from France.


Additional links:
-From FRA (i.e. the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights): "For more than a thousand years, Roma people have been an integral part of European civilisation. Today, with an estimated population of 10-12 million in Europe, approximately six million of whom live in the EU, Roma people are the biggest ethnic minority in Europe. The available evidence suggests that many Roma (which include Travellers, Gypsies, Manouches, Ashkali and Sinti) live in overwhelmingly poor conditions on the margins of society, and face extreme levels of social exclusion. FRA surveys undertaken in 2008 and 2012 also found that prejudice, intolerance and discrimination affect a large proportion of Roma living in the member states, most of whom are EU citizens.

In April 2011, the European Commission issued a Communication on an EU framework for national Roma integration strategies, which asked FRA to contribute to monitoring and assisting EU-wide efforts to implement the EU’s plan for Roma integration. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits any discrimination based on race, colour, ethnic or social origin. The chapters on freedoms and solidarity establish the right to education and access to preventive healthcare and medical treatment. The charter also guarantees respect for cultural, religious and linguistic diversity." (Link to their page on the Roma is here.)
-A report on the Roma by FRA is here: 'Roma survey – Data in focus. Poverty and employment: the situation of Roma in 11 EU member states'.

-Human rights on the margins. Roma in Europe. (This is a report by Amnesty International)
"On almost every indicator of human development, in almost every European country, the Roma fall far below the national average. They have lower incomes, worse health, poorer housing, lower literacy rates and higher levels of unemployment than the rest of the population. Millions of Roma live in isolated slums, often without access to electricity or running water, putting them at risk of illness. But many cannot obtain the health care they need. Receiving inferior education in segregated schools, they are severely disadvantaged in the labour market. Unable to find jobs, they cannot afford better housing, buy medication, or pay the costs of their children’s schooling. And so the cycle continues. All this is not simply the inevitable consequence of poverty. It is the result of widespread, often systemic, human rights violations stemming from centuries of prejudice and discrimination that have kept the great majority of Roma on the margins of European society. Europe’s governments can and must act to break the vicious cycle of prejudice, poverty and human rights violations.


In February 2009 Robert Csorba, a 27-year old Romani man and his four-year-old son Robika were killed in a village about 40km southeast of Budapest, Hungary. They were shot dead while fleeing their house, which had been set on fire. Local police initially treated the case as an accident and announced that the fire had been caused by an electrical fault, despite a neighbour’s report of hearing gunshots. But then an MEP [i.e. Member of the European Parliament] demanded that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) be called in. NBI investigators went to the site and quickly found evidence of arson and murder: bottles used for petrol bombs, lead shot and cartridges. The autopsy confirmed that Robert and Robika Csorba died of gunshot wounds. This was one of nine similar attacks (petrol bomb attacks followed by shooting) which killed six people in Hungary between January 2008 and August 2009. Numerous other attacks did not hit the headlines. An Amnesty International report on violent attacks against Roma in Hungary concluded that the failure to prevent and respond effectively to violence against Roma was due to shortcomings in the criminal justice system."
-Segregation, bullying and fear: The stunted education of Romani children in Europe. (Also by Amnesty International)

-Human Rights of Roma and Travellers in Europe. (The report is by the Commissioner for Human Rights, Coucil of Europe.)

-Roma Health in Europe. (This is a report by the European Public Health Alliance, which is a network of not-for-profit organizations active in public health -web site is here.)

-The European Roma Rights Centre: "The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is a Roma-led international public interest law organisation working to combat anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma through strategic litigation, research and policy development, advocacy and human rights education."

-About the genocide of European Roma (1939-1945). (At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.)

–The Decade of Roma Inclusion: Addressing Racial Discrimination Through Development. (At the U.N. Chronicle)

-Various other news stories about the treatment of the Roma people in Europe are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Source: ONTD_Political

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