Acts of Antigypsyism in Ukraine

On May 27th, an open discussion was organized by the International Charitable Organization Roma Women Fund Chiricli to discuss the racial attacks that have happened in the past, the event was called “A year after Roma pogroms: where are we now?”. The purpose of the event was to discuss past hate crimes, talk about how these attacks can manifest and to examine how to help the victims of these attacks in the hopes they can continue on with their lives as best they can. Thereby honouring the victims.

Among the guest speakers were Matthew Schaaf, (Director of the Freedom House in Ukraine) Vyacheslav Likhachev, (Head of the Monitoring Group on the Rights of National Minorities) Konstantin Tarasenko, (Head of the Human Rights Department of the National Police of Ukraine) Julian Kondur, (project coordinator of the Roma Women’s Fund Chiricli.)

It’s important to note before the event started, two members of the far-right movement were seen close to the venue, the Ukrainian crisis media centre on Khreshyatik street. Upon seeing these people near a Roma event the organizers requested assistance from Patrol Police as it was already known these same people had been involved in disrupting and dismantling public events related to Roma previously with the use of violence.

The discussion went off to a good start, the event had gathered attention because of the important topic so there was a sizeable audience. Despite this just as the second speaker finished his statement it was then followed by interruptions from the audience, by two men who identified themselves as patriots.

Their interventions were aggressive and discussion came to a halt as it was clear they could not continue further. In addition, one of the men clothed in camouflage revealed from his bag in front of the audience and speakers, an axe, two screwdrivers and two bottles of whiskey. This action was accompanied by the narrative that these items were taken from Roma who had allegedly used these items to attack people. The man in camouflage introduced himself as Sergey Yarosh.

This awful public display of racism was ended shortly after the police officers arrived at the venue. The perpetrators were gradually pacified and made to leave the building. However the discussion, unfortunately, could not be continued despite several efforts of the moderator to do so, as speakers were repeatedly interrupted and everyone was left shocked by the events that unfolded.

In conclusion, the event was disrupted by members of a far-right organization in Ukraine. Their exact affiliation or involvement in a specific organization was not clear, but they have been continually spotted near Roma related events. The perpetrators of this racial attack utilized public space and use of media to publicly display their hatred for Roma to an audience, they criminalized them without any real evidence or just cause.

These so-called patriots specifically attended this event in the hopes to destroy it and stop it from happening. It’s hard to fathom how they could justify attending an event that was set up to open discussion to address the violent attacks happening in our community, by brandishing weapons and speaking aggressively directed to Roma communities, their voices filled with hate. Racism against Roma is often described as the last acceptable form of racism, this act reinforces that premise.

Police action against Roma Travellers community in Belgium

OPINION

Unprecedented police action against Roma Travellers community in Belgium

A huge police action took place in Belgium in the morning of 7 May resulting in a massive arrest of Belgian Roma Travellers accused of trafficking of illegally obtained vehicles. The last action of this kind took place during the Second World War when 351 Roma Travellers from Belgium were transported to Auschwitz Birkenau. Today we see again a targeted action of the federal police towards the entire Roma Travellers community in Belgium.

 

We highly appreciate the work done by the police to tackle criminals in our society. This step was needed as we all are citizens of Belgium and we are responsible and stand as equals before the justice system as Belgian citizens. At the same time, we have concerns with the way these massive arrests have been conducted and we will allow ourselves to be critical towards the way justice is delivered.

 

Early in the morning 1200 police officers entered simultaneously in 19 locations in Belgium where Travellers parked their caravans. More than 200 persecutions took place. According to the media 76 people were arrested, while community members speak of a higher number. All belongings of the families were seized, including pocket money, jewellery, cars, caravans and other personal belongings. They could not even take food from the fridge before having to leave their homes. Bank accounts of innocent people were blocked without giving a reason. Some of the community members were released from custody without having been questioned, but their belongings are still confiscated. The spokesperson of the Prosecutor announced that 90 caravans and 91 cars are confiscated and one million Euros was seized on the spot. Today the families concerned are still without housing. Many of them stay with neighbours of other family members. 18 members of one family currently share one settled caravan that could not be moved by the police. There is still no clarity about whether and when they will be able to get back their belongings.

 

Arresting innocent people without any investigation or proof of crime is unacceptable today. This resembles a terrible historical moment for the Roma communities 80 years ago, when in the very same manner Roma people were arrested as entire communities during the Nazi persecutions. We are surprised to see that very similar actions are taking place today, in a time before elections. Arresting a community and not responsible individuals is an alert. We are seriously concerned that the Roma Travellers Community (similarly to refugees) is being used as a scapegoat to legitimize the racist attempts of some state representatives to be elected or re-elected, following examples of right-wing political movements across Europe.

We, as citizens are concerned about the violation of one of the very basic and universal human rights: the right to housing. According to Belgian legislation, caravans are recognised as housing. Confiscating caravans resulted in a great number of families: men, women and children deprived of their homes. Children, disabled people and pregnant women had to spend days and nights on the street without being offered appropriate alternative shelter. We were very critical towards similar attacks against Roma in Eastern Europe and signalled this to the EU institutions. Today an attack against Roma happened in the very heart of Europe: Brussels.

 

Today we are wondering what will happen to the families left on the street. For years, many Roma Travellers had to resettle every two weeks because of the lack of caravan sites in Brussels. We were continuously persecuted by the police, which led us to change our standing place constantly. Our children could not take advantage of the right to education, leading to a high illiteracy rate in our community. In addition to that on May 7, our housing rights were also violated. Today, in the 21 century we, the Roma community still have to fight for our fundamental rights, which are supposed to be granted to everyone.

 

We are calling the Belgian Ministry of Interior to take the necessary actions and to give the Roma and Travellers back their caravans, their only homes. We are demanding a stop to arrests of entire communities for the crimes of certain individuals. We are calling human rights organizations to support us in finding a way to solve this harsh situation for our families who currently suffer injustice and to call for a constructive dialogue with Belgian and international authorities.

Can we put an end to the dehumanization of Roma in France?

The situation in France in relation to antigypsyism is dire, vulnerable members of the Roma community are being targeted in racial attacks. On March 16th a rumour first appeared on social media platforms causing a series of attacks to be carried out against members of the Roma community. Since the attacks started La Voix des Rroms and its partners have recorded 38 assaults: assault and battery in the street, death threats, shots near living quarters, arson, etc. The number of attacks peaked between March 25-26.

To mark the occasion of International Roma day, Romea.cz opens its
columns to the association La Voix des Rroms (the Voice of Roma). The
president of ERGO Network’s member organisation William Bila, is
outraged by the fate of Romani populations in French society.
Dehumanization at the hands of the media and politicians is contributing
to the normalization of antigypsyism: the evils are numerous but the
solutions are there.

You can read the full article here:                                                                                         By William Bila.

We also encourage everyone to take part in the social media campaign launched by La Viox des Rroms, it consists of taking a photo of yourself or others holding up a sign saying ‘#JESUISRROM SOLIDARITE AVEC NOS FRERES ET SŒURS DE FRANCE.’ and posting it on any social media platform. Remember to tag the organisation La Viox des Rroms.

 

Pledge to continue fight against antigypsyism

Pledge to continue fight against antigypsyism

In the framework of the EU Roma Week 2019, 61 Members of the European Parliament have pledged to continue their fight against antigypsyism and to take it to the next mandate of the Parliament after the elections in May.

We wholeheartedly thank our partners in the European Parliament for their work and fully support the pledge.

We encourage you – our friends in the EU Member States – to support it, too. 

How? Ask your candidates for the EP elections to sign the pledge and make their support visible by taking a photo with it. Post the photo on social media under the hashtag #StopAntigypsyism. Don’t forget to tag ERGO Network (twitter: ERGO_Network, fb: @ERGONetwork) so we can collect the signatories.

Download the Pledge.

P L E D G E

We, the undersigned, want to create a European society
in which Roma can access and enjoy their rights set in our Treaties,
in which Roma can fulfil their true potential.

We want a European society, in which dehumanisation of Roma is stopped,
a healthy European society free from racism, such as anti-Gypsyism.
A Europe that we can be proud of.

Therefore,
we, the undersigned, affirm that we will continue to work to achieve that:

– regarding the post-2020 EU legislative era –

1. the European Commission puts forward a proposal for a post-2020 Strategic EU Framework for National Roma Inclusion Strategies (EU Framework) with a wide set of priority areas, clear targets, measurable goals, timelines and indicators for monitoring;

2. the European Council supports the proposal of the European Commission and safeguards the preparation and implementation of the EU Framework in the EU Member States;

3. the governments of the EU Member States prepare their renewed National Roma Inclusion Strategies with the meaningful and timely involvement of Roma and pro-Roma organisations;

*****

– regarding the upcoming EP elections –

4. the parties of the EU Member States actively reach out to Roma, and empower them to run as candidates for the EU Parliamentary elections;

5. the parties of the EU Member States refrain from using anti-Roma hate speech during their campaigns and condemn hate speech and scapegoating;

6. the parties of the EU Member States stop the shameful tradition of buying votes;
7. the governments of the EU Member States guarantee that Roma can fully enjoy their political rights;
*****

– regarding the work of the new European Parliament –

8. the newly elected Members of the European Parliament keep the fight against anti-Gypsyism and all kinds of racism on the agenda, safeguard the continuation of the Antiracism and Diversity Intergroup and consider the creation of an Anti-Gypsyism Intergroup;

9. the newly elected Members of the European Parliament guarantee the continuation of the annual Roma week in the European Parliament;

*****

– regarding the rights of Roma –

10. the governments, the parties and the duty-bearers of the EU Member States safeguard that Roma can be equal citizens with equal rights, and that they can fulfil their true potential as EU citizens.

We, the undersigned, want the EU
to remain true to its democratic values, respect for human rights,
non-discrimination and the rule of law.

´There is only one RACE – the human race.
There is only one RELIGION – love,
There is only one WORLD – or none at all.`

S i g n a t o r i e s :

Soraya Post
Romeo Franz
Benedek Jávor
Damian Draghici
Peter Niedermüller
Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar
Dietmar Köster
Maria Arena
Tanja Fajon
Ana Gomes
Christine Revault d`Allonnes-Bonnefoy
Cornelia Ernst
Monika Vana
Cecilia Wikström
Karoline Graswander-Hainz
Barbara Lochbihler
Sylvie Guillaume
Georgi Pirinski
Ernest Urtasun
Julie Ward
Jose Inacio Faria
Terry Reintke
Estefania Torres Martinez
Csaba Sógor
Petri Sarvamaa
Sirpa Pietikäinen
Eleonora Forenza
Margrete Auken
Tania Gonzalez Penas
Norbert Neuser
Lynn Boylan
Miguel Urbán Crespo
Fredrick Federley
Igor Šoltes
Petra Kammerevert
Veronica Lope Fontagné
Esteban González Pons
Ana Miranda
Michal Boni
Theresa Griffin
Iratxe García-Perez
Martina Michels
Xabier Benito Ziluaga
Martina Anderson
Liadh Ní Riada
Lívia Járóka
Matt Carthy
Helmut Scholz
Tilly Metz
Julia Reda
Evelyne Gebhardt
Jens Geier
Angela Rosa Vallina de la Noval
Teresa Jimenez-Becerril Barrio
António Marinho e Pinto
Jozo Rados
Stelios Kouloglou
Jordi Solé
Bodil Valero
Brando Benifei
Josep-Maria Terricabras

Roma demand to be included in the SDGs

Roma demand to be included in the SDGs

At the heart of the EU Roma Week 2019, which brought over 100 European activists and stakeholders to Brussels, policy-makers and civil society met for the first public debate on Roma and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The debate was co-hosted by Cornelia Ernst, MEP of the Left Party, and the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network together with Soraya Post MEP, Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) and Sozialfabrik.

The debate was opened by Cornelia Ernst MEP who stated that “the global development agenda can and should be an important lever for fighting antigypsyism and racism”, calling to mind that the EU Roma Framework “has failed because it did not include the Roma community”. ERGO Network Director Gabriela Hrabanova stressed that “the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the promise of governments to leave no one behind provide crucial opportunities for advancing the rights of Roma in Europe”.

Stefan Meyer of Fresno Consulting presented the discussion paper ‘Roma included’, which was launched by ERGO Network with the event, and brought to the table recommendations for civil society on how to engage with the 2030 Agenda.

Reacting to the presentation, Henriett Dinók from Romaversitas highlighted the challenges for Roma organisations to keep track with new programmes and principles: “We here who have access to information on the SDGs, have to collect it, share it and use it to advocate! Then the SDG fora will serve as a platform for us to shape the narrative and to raise our demands.”

 

Paul Divakar, Chairperson of the Asia Dalit Right Forum, brought the global perspective to the panel and pointed out that the SDGs must be designed in a way that they also serve those who are excluded in their societies, across the globe. “If we are not named in the indicators, if there are no data, what do we do? That´s why need to fight for our rights together.”

On behalf of the European Commission, Katarina Ivanković Knežević, Director for Employment, Social affairs and Inclusion in DG Employment, stressed the potential of the SDGs to address questions of the inclusion and discrimination of Roma, and better take into account intersectionalities of gender and disability. Gesa Boeckermann (Policy Officer, Non-discrimination and Roma coordination Unit, DG Justice and Consumers)  highlighted that not only are the SDGs an important roof for policies related to Roma but that in reverse, by achieving Roma inclusion, the EU could also make an important step in its commitment to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

Romeo Franz MEP (Greens/EFA) closed the debate by underlining that (pro)Roma activists need to use the 2030 Agenda for supporting their fight against antigypsyism, as this racism is the main reason for the social exclusion of Roma across Europe.

Watch a record of the discussion here:

Roma Included: Can the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals contribute to combatting antigypsyism? Co-hosted by Cornelia Ernst MEP and Soraya Post MEP, the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) and Sozialfabrik on 20 March 2019