Strategies against antigypsyism

Strategies against antigypsyism

The international conference „Strategies against antigypyism“ took place in Tenerife on 12 and 13 December 2019. It was organized by the Karipen association in cooperation with the Ministry for Health, Consumers Affairs and Social Welfare of the Canary Island Government, Cabildo of Tenerife and Khetane Platform. At the invitation of FAGIC ERGO member, Gabriela Hrabanova, ERGO Network director presented strategies against antigypsyism from grassroots to EU level and vice versa.

The conference brought together political and public representatives from European, national and local, Roma leaders and activists countering antigypsyism.  Among them Soraya Post, ERGO Network co-chair, Romeo Franz, Member of the European Parliament for the Greens/EFA group and Juan Fernardo Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the LIBE Committee in the European Parliament. It also gathered many local and national Roma politicians from Spain, including Ismael Cortes, a Member of the Spanish parliament.

The conference focused on three topics: 1) the concept of antigypsyism throughout history up to present; 2) institutional antigypsyism and ways to combat it through politics and 3) antigypsyism and gender issues.

The historical aspect was covered by Iulius Rostas, visiting professor at the Central European University and the Spanish academic of Romani origin, Helios Fernandez. The main message was that over the centuries, but also in recent years, institutions have been perpetuating a paternalistic approach under the pretence of making Roma better, by changing the names of programs and policies aiming at including Roma in societies, but very often achieving only their assimilation. The important next step is to introduce the policy of reconciliation, to narrow the centuries of hardship of Roma.

It was also discussed that often Roma might not know how to describe and what antigypsyism is, however many experiences it on the daily basis. For example, school segregation is a reality in Spain, while Roma surnames or home addresses can lead to discriminatory practices when accessing jobs or advancing in the career.

On a positive note, the regional and local government of Canary Islands and Tenerife have shown interest in working together with the local association Karipen, not only by hosting this event, but also by allocating a budget line for Roma inclusion.

Roma youth empowerment trough Rromani language

Roma youth empowerment trough Rromani language

Our partners from Roma Community Centre in Vilinus, Lithuania for the first time ever gather a group of young Roma for 2 days seminar from 2-4 Of December, 2019 with a programme in rromanes on topics such as: discrimination, equality, access to the labor market and empowerment.

The event took part under the frame of Roma platform and was organized by the department of National minorities together with the Public institution Roma Community Center.

ERGO’s policy officer Carmen Tanasie and its member from France La Voix des Rroms, Samir Mile delivered the workshop in rromani language engaging in deconstructing the consequences of social exclusion and came together with the participants to a set of recommendations such as:

  • Roma youth should be consulted by the National Minorities department when issuing calls or implementing activities that includes Roma youth
  • Provide high-level jobs in the public sector for Roma
  • Improve cooperation between young Roma and labor offices
  • Tackle the discrimination in schools and include the Roma history in the school curricula

The young Roma got empowered by the fact that could freely express in their maternal language and asked the organizers to follow organizing seminars and meeting not just for young people but involving   more Roma communities in Lithuania.

Alliance against Antigypsyism: new recommendations

Alliance against Antigypsyism offers recommendations and concrete measures to combat antigypsyism for the future EU and national policies

The Alliance against Antigypsyism has recently published two new policy papers.  The first offers recommendations to combat antigypsyism for future EU and national policies to ensure they are comprehensive and no dimension or manifestation of antigypsyism is omitted. The Alliance also went one step further and proposes concrete measures to combat antigypsyism In their paper “Developing measures to combat antigypsyism after 2020: Guidance for European and national stakeholders”.

Both papers aim to inspire European and national stakeholders to contribute to combating exclusion of Roma. They could be used as guide for EU Member States and Candidate Countries to update their current national strategies or create new strategies that can respond to antigypsyism. With the papers we also want to enter the narratives and practice of the new European Parliament and the European Commission. There has been a tremendous work done by civil society and EU institutions in the last years and it is now the time for Roma rights advocates to make sure that the new parliamentarians and the new Commission follow-up and continue to create policies and legislations that reflect realities of Roma people in Europe.

Roma and pro-Roma activists are invited to adapt these recommendations and measures to their context, use the ideas the Alliance put forward to advocate on national and local levels. These papers are a result of the work led by the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, Central Council for German Sinti and Roma and European Network against Racism, with inputs of more than 25 other Roma and pro-Roma organisations and individual experts.

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.