Civil Society Statement against Antigypsyism in Italy

European Roma and pro-Roma civil society condemns antigypsyism in Italy and asks Italian government to uphold the rule of law

Only a few weeks in office, the new Italian government coalition of far-right Northern League and the eurosceptic Five Star Movement is shaping the racist narrative against Roma in Italy by promoting antigypsyist actions and continuing to engage in hate speech. As European Roma and pro-Roma civil society we strongly condemn the unconstitutional proposal of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to establish a census for Roma in Italy and ask the Italian government to uphold the rule of law and democratic values.

It is now time for the European institutions, civil society organisations and all citizens believing in democracy and human rights to speak up, recognize the nature and the cause of hate speech directed towards Roma and push for the enforcement of the existing legal mechanisms of the European Union.

Even though the proposal for a census of Roma and for expulsion all non-Italian Roma is clearly against the law and has already been retracted by his government, Salvini counts on the support of a large percentage of the population and successfully uses antigypsyism to increase his voter base. Sadly, hate speech by Italian politicians is on the rise and is not a new phenomenon, especially among members of the Northern League.

The mayor of Treviso in 2015 said that it is best “to dress Roma up as rabbits so the hunters will shoot at them”. In 2017, Mara Bizzotto declared on 8th of April, the International Roma Day, that “we should rather commemorate the victims of Roma’s felonies” [instead of Roma victims of genocide]. Just a few days ago, Italian League member MEP Danilo Oscar Lancini argued against future Roma related EU policies and funding in the European Parliament since “Roma do not want to be integrated”.

80 years ago Europe has experienced a similar narrative and we all know the consequences.  This is why we ask the European institutions and the broader public to act responsibly and not only stand by and watch. Everybody should condemn this racist act. The European institutions must make use of the available mechanisms and start penalizing hate-speech against all groups. The European Commission needs to launch an infringement procedure against this Italian government concerning Roma people’s housing situation, which we have been calling for several years. There is no justification for Salvini’s antigypsyist acts and statements.

It is a high time to join our forces and fight antigypsyism because the future of our society is at stake. Europe must start defending its core values and stand up for our right to live in a racism-free society.

Supportive organisations

European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network, Federación de Asociaciones Gitanas de Cataluña (FACIG), Catalunya, European Roma Rights Centre, Roma Education Fund, European Public Health Alliance

Roma Active Albania – IRCA, Albania – Roma Women Rights Centre, Albania – Roma Versitas, Albania – T’REJA Centre, Albania – Integro Association, Bulgaria – Equal opportunities Initiatives Association- Federación de Asociaciones Gitanas de Cataluña, Catalunya – Slovo 21, Czech Republic – Vzájemné soužiti/ Life Together, Czech Republic – Awen amenca, Czech Republic – La Voix des Rroms, France – Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti und Roma, Germany – Amaro Drom, Germany – Amaro Foro, Germany – RomaVersitas Foundation, Hungary – Advancing Together, Kosovo – Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians NGO, Kosovo – Roma Community Centre, Lithuania – Romano Avazi, Macedonia – RRoma, Macedonia – Romaversitas, Macedonia – Asociatia CRIS, Romania – Human Catalyst, Romania – Nevo Parudimos, Romania – Policy Center for Roma and Minorities, Romania – Roma Advocacy and Research Centre, Slovakia – Kale Amenge, Spain – Zero Discrimination, Turkey – Kaskosan, UK

 

Download the Civil society statement against antigypsyism in Italy

With regards to the European Parliament’s plenary session about the Implementation of and follow-up to the EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, together with our partners in the Alliance against Antigypsyism we ask MEPs to call upon the other institutions to continue after 2020 a renewed EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies which should address antigypsyism as a central priority.

Read our letter below:

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Dear Member of the European Parliament,

This evening you have an important opportunity to address the European Council and Commission during the European Parliament’s plenary session about the Implementation of and follow-up to the EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies.

This is a crucial moment to bring forward our discussions of the EU Roma Week that took place in April in the European Parliament, and in particular the recommendations of the European Parliament resolution of 25 October 2017 on fundamental rights aspects in Roma integration in the EU: fighting anti-Gypsyism (2017/2038(INI)).

Based on this resolution, we ask you to call upon the Commission and Council to continue after 2020 a renewed EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies which should address antigypsyism as a central priority.

  1. The EU Framework on National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020 has brought improvements, especially in the field of inclusion of Roma in education, but has not managed to tackle the systemic cause of Roma exclusion. Therefore, there is a need for a new EU Framework on National Roma Integration Strategies that would benefit from a greater focus on the fight against antigypsyism. Member States and European institutions should recognize the responsibility of mainstream institutions to monitor and counter antigypsyism in order to ensure democratic values, the rule of law and fundamental rights and equal treatment of all citizens in our societies.
  2. The new framework should include and support financially specific measures to prevent and fight all the manifestations of antigypsyism and dedicate public funds to be used for these purposes, such as:
    1. Support structures and data collection methodologies that monitor antigypsyism systematically in all fields of society, while respecting fundamental rights principles;
    2. Support Roma civil society watchdog groups;
    3. Support and ensure meaningful Roma participation and empowerment to participate in designing and implementing joint policies;
    4. Support social awareness programs about antigypsyism targeting majority populations and trainings of professionals, especially those working in public administration, policy makers, police, prosecutors and judges.
    5. Support diversity policies ensuring representation of Roma in decision-making bodies
    6. Ensure inclusion of antigypsyism in National Action Plans against Racism as well as policy coherence and complementarity with the National Roma Strategy.
  3. Having a new EU Roma Framework is crucial. However, it must not hinder but strengthen the processes of mainstreaming the fight against Roma exclusion. Relevant mainstream policies, programs and structures should ensure targeting the phenomenon of antigypsyism too. The EU should commit human and financial resources specifically for programs directly addressing antigypsyism within the mainstream policies.
  4. The European Commission should establish a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to analyse the causes, manifestations and effects of antigypsyism, as well as to develop appropriate strategies and recommendations to counter antigypsyism at all levels.
  5. The European Commission should draft and implement an action plan (or guidance note) to monitor and combat antigypsyism in order to ensure efficiency of the equality legislation (EU Race Equality Directive), coherence between social inclusion outcomes (Roma Framework, EU 2020 strategy) and the adequacy of the legal and policy frameworks in place to reach these outcomes.

Further information

Press release by the “Alliance against Antigypsyism”, October 2017: European Parliament takes important step forward to address the fundamental rights of Roma

Press release and recommendations of the “Alliance against Antigypsyism”, December 2017: Antigypsyism on the agenda at EU’s High-Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance

Alliance against Antigypsyism: Reference Paper on Antigypsyism: http://antigypsyism.eu/

On behalf of

Gabriela Hrabanova, European Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network

Jonathan Mack, Central Council of German Sinti and Roma

Violeta Naydenova, Open Society European Policy Institute (OSEPI)

Marius Tudor, European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)

Julie Pascoet, European Network Against Racism (ENAR)

Vicente Rodriguez Fernandez, ternYpe International Roma Youth Network

When we will start calling things by their name?!

A man kills a Roma girl in Amfissa, Central Greece: Racism?! When we will start calling things by their name?!

Greek media reported: “Local businessman shoots and kills 13-year-old Roma girl in Amfissa, Central Greece” on Monday, June 4, 2018. One of two available articles in English[1] acknowledges the existence of racism in Greece, but only in one sentence and at the end of the article.[2] But what is lacking is not only the ignorance of Greek media of the extent of antigypsyism in the country. It is shocking to read that “the motive of the shooting remains unclear”.

The motive of the shooting is clearly antigypsyism. The media talks about the murderer as someone who used to always drive faster when passing by the Roma in Amfissa. He then approached Roma and simply fired bullets in their direction.

The media even go further to implicitly suggest that Roma might be guilty, speculating about a gossip that Roma might have stolen something from the shop of the murderer. This is how the media reproduces racism. They also reproduce racism by not calling things by their proper names. Antigypsyism is not only what is being said or done, but also what is not being said or done.[3] Most parts of the available English language media articles are focused on the “tension in the area”, which is “high as locals fear of revenge and members of the Roma community have already set the perpetrator’s car on fire and damaged his shop”. The main message that the articles about the case send to the public is putting the blame on Roma since they create tensions. This shifts the focus from a tragic loss of life of a young girl to a typical imagination of the Roma communities.

ERGO Network calls upon the authorities to properly investigate the case and punish the perpetrator for committing hate-crime against Roma and to prevent filling the society with fear of Roma. We also demand the protection of the Roma community in Amfissa by the Greek authorities as well as respect for the Roma members of the Greek society. The European societies, including Greece, have to start acknowledging antigypsyism and make concrete steps to demonstrate that the phenomenon should not be accepted. We welcome the statement of the Greek Government that acknowledges that “the tragic event [] was not an accident or the result of a ‘bad moment’”, but it “brings back to the scene the huge racism, stereotypes and hostility against Greek Roma, as well as the difficult conditions in which most of them live”.[4]

Photo credit: http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2018/06/05/amfissa-businessman-kills-roma-girl/

[1] http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2018/06/06/roma-girl-amfissa-perpetrator/, http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2018/06/05/amfissa-businessman-kills-roma-girl/

[2] “Meanwhile, on social media, dozens of Greek racists spew hate against the Roma and some even hail the child’s murderer. The decline of a part of the Greek society is getting frightening”.

[3] http://antigypsyism.eu/?page_id=17

[4] https://www.newsit.gr/politikh/syriza-gia-ti-dolofonia-tis-13xronis-stin-amfissa-den-itan-atyxima-den-itan-kakia-stigmi/2544031/

Statement regarding Bulgarian EU conference on Roma Inclusion

Brussels, 29th May 2018

The European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network (ERGO) and its Bulgarian member Integro Association together with the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) and a number of Bulgarian Roma activists and organizations support the position of prominent advocates for Roma rights in Bulgaria concerning today’s event entitled “Roma inclusion – where we stand and where we are heading to”.

We would have appreciated the effort to prioritize Roma inclusion as a topic if the event had stood up for values such as meaningful Roma participation, not just tokenism, and the fight against antigypsyism. As this is not the case, we join the 51 Bulgarian organisations, coalitions and individuals participating in the Roma Standing Conference, who decided not to take part in the event in a letter supporting a society free from antigypsyism.

Today’s conference is organized by the Bulgarian National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues, an institution that fails to implement the priorities of the National Roma Integration Strategy. The institution is chaired by Valeri Simeonov, who in 2017 was convicted by the regional court of Burgas and the Commission for the Protection Against Discrimination for his antigypsyist statements.

For these reasons, we characterise this event as yet another illegitimate attempt to represent ‘Roma issues’. We call upon the authorities to include the Roma community and Roma CSOs as equal stakeholders rather than token participants for public relations.

Download the statement here.

     The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)     Bulgaria_Integro 

 

Signatures:

Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, ERGO Network; Ðorđe Jovanoviç, ERRC; Liliya Makaveeva – Integro Association; Lyubomir Dimitrov, Roma-Lom; Nikolay Kirilov, member of the RSC; Asen Yordanov IG-Boychinovtsi; Miglena Mihaylova “Leader” NGO, Blagoevgrad; Asen Karagyozov ICRC, Plovdiv; Zapryan Hristev, IG, Rakovski; Yanko Krivonozov Future Rakitovo; Krassimir Kirilov IG, Sliven; Ophelia Krumova IG, Vidin; Peter Tsvetanov – National Network of Health Mediators, Branch Montana; Veselin Lakov –  IG Montana; Assen Hristov- Association of Roma pastors – over 100 Roma churches; Alexander Strahilov – IG Razlog; Svetlin Raikov – Development Initiative for the Northwest; Anton Karagyozov – Roma-Plovdiv; Nikolay Nikolov, Center for strategies for minorities – Varna; Metin Shefket – Roma – Vazovo; Daniela Mihaylova – Equal opportunities Association , Sofia;  Roumyan Sechkov, S. E. G. A. Foundation; Emil Metodiev, RSC; Demir Yanev, Roma Solidarity, Petrich; Yuksel Yasharov, Peshtera, Roma Active Albania, Romano Centro Austria, La Voix des Rroms, France, Advancing Together, Kosovo, Amaro Drom, Amaro Foro, Germany, Asociatia CRIS, Romania

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The European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network’s mission is to fight against antigypsyism and advocate for better policies for Roma in Europe. We create strong networks and empower Roma activists all over Europe. More information on our website: http://ergonetwork.org/.

Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, ERGO Director:  g.hrabanova@ergontwork.org

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is a Roma-led international public interest law organisation which monitors the human rights of Roma in Europe and provides legal defence in cases of human rights violations. For more information see at:  http://www.errc.org/.

Ðorđe Jovanoviç,  ERRC President:  dorde.jovanovic@errc.org

Association Integro Bulgaria is a not-for-profit non-government music organisation. It was incorporated in 2002. Its main goal is to support Roma in the rural areas of Bulgaria and supply musical equipment, such as drum samples and drum sounds. The name of the Association is an abbreviation of “Roma INTEGRation”. More information on our website:  http://www.integro-bg.org/

Liliya Makaveeva, Director Integro: L.makaveeva@gmail.com

 

 

 

ERGO Network Statement on recent neo-Nazi attack against a Roma camp in Ukraine

02/05/218 – Brussels, Belgium

The European Roma Grassroots Organizations (ERGO) Network strongly condemns the recent neo-Nazi attack against a Roma camp that took place on April 21 in Lysa Hora, Ukraine dispersing and setting fire to Roma families’ tents. The criminal investigation of the violent dispersal has been initiated after days of negligence and implausible denial by Kyiv police forces, which is yet another example of pure antigypsyism.

As an international Roma and pro-Roma network with 28 member organizations from all over Europe advocating for better policies for Roma and fighting against antigypsyism, we believe it is our duty to step up and call on the following actors to take further steps and measures to restore democratic functioning and institutions, to enforce the fundamental rights of the Roma people and to express our worrying concerns related to extreme right wing activism.

Our claims are listed, as follows:

1.     ERGO Network urgently calls on President Petro Porosenko and the Ukrainian government to speak out against the targeted far right attack and potential similar attacks on Roma, condemning all forms of bias motivation, violence and extreme right ideologies threatening Roma people.

2.     The public condemnation of police negligence and omission, and the call for transparent, impartial, objective and time-bound legal procedures and investigations.  We strongly claim to conduct proper investigation that complies with the rule of law, as well as fair and equal treatment and other fundamental principles.

3.     ERGO Network calls on the respective Ukrainian authorities and international non-governmental organizations to more effectively monitor far right, extremist, and neo-Nazi riots, marches, gatherings and all other forms of activities and movements (online and offline) that are able to pose a threat, denounce, verbally or physically attack, thus violate the fundamental human rights of the Roma people.

4.     ERGO Network calls for the engagement of the European Union to have a stronger position in condemning the Ukrainian neo-Nazi attack against Roma, as well as human rights violations and antigypsyism that is very much present in Europe.