Roma Cafe

Roma Café discussion kicks off on Romani Resistance Day

May 16 is a symbolic date for now in the contemporary Roma movement throughout Europe – a day that intends to shift into a positive narrative by highlighting Roma heroes during the holocaust. ERGO Network together with the Diverse Youth Network organized a renewed concept of Roma Café on May 17 to engage in discussions with Roma and non-Roma on what it means to us to have a Roma Resistance Day.

During the Roma Café guests came together from all over Brussels and Europe. Ms Evelin Verhas joined us from the Budapest based Tom Lantos Institute to present the approach of a human rights organization as well as to provide insights into the Roma Resistance research that has been conducted in 5 European countries. It was important to set the scene with a video interview, where a French Roma holocaust survivor, Gerard Gureme explains his every days during the 40s in a very informative testimony. Mr. Atanas Stoyanov kicked off the discussion sharing his own motivation and experience being part of the Dik I Na Bistar movement as a young Roma who has been involved since the very beginning as a participant, later as a trainer and group leader. The DIK I NA BISTAR movement is organized by the Ternype Roma International Youth Network bringing together young people from all over Europe to Krakow and Auschwitz to commemorate the Roma genocide on August 2. Besides the remembrance initiative, a training component is also empowering young Roma and non-Roma.

The research – Joanna Talewicz-Kwiatkowska: `Resistance and Survival of the Roma and Sinti in Auschwitz-Birkenau` – presented by Evelin Verhas pointed out a number of focal points to consider in the current discourse. The minority rights perspective requires the equal recognition of the genocides that have been committed against minorities, and inter and multicultural education must serve as a basis for that. May 16 is researched using the resources that are at disposal such as Roma and Sinti survivor testimonies, memoirs, official records etc., most of them found in the archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. It should be noted that Joachimowski submitted his testimony three times, each time giving a different date for the events at the Zigeunerlager. Whilst recalling a date from the past may be a challenge for a person submitting a testimony, one needs to be cautious assuming that testimonies necessarily describe historical facts. It should be noted that, until now, no existing research could verify or or disprove Joachimowski’s story. Therefore, this research was meant as a first step towards reconstructing events connected to Roma and Sinti resistance in the Zigeunerlager.

The intention was to stimulate new thoughts and to engage in discussions. The meaning of resistance and how it is present in our everyday lives was very important, but the questions of identity also raised a number of valid points.

 

EU Roma Week: an opportunity to focus on tackling antigypsyism in Europe

EU Roma Week took place last week for the third time in the European Parliament, to mark International Roma Day on 8 April. It was an important opportunity to put the fight against antigypsyism – the specific form of racism faced by Roma, Sinti and Travellers – at the forefront of the European Union agenda, and to highlight the need to uphold the fundamental rights of Roma in Europe.

Roma are part of European societies and have been for centuries. But many barriers prevent them from being equal citizens. Tens of thousands of Roma are qualified professionals, but they remain invisible because of the “Gypsy” stigma. An overwhelming proportion of Roma – 80 % on average in the nine EU Member States – still live at risk of poverty, according to a recent report by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency. One in three Roma are victims of harassment. Roma also regularly experience discriminatory stop and search by police, police raids on Roma settlements and other forms of harassment by police forces.

Antigypsyism is often used in a narrow sense to indicate anti-Roma attitudes or the expression of negative stereotypes in the public sphere or hate speech. However, antigypsyism gives rise to a much wider spectrum of discriminatory expressions and practices, including many implicit or hidden manifestations. Antigypsyism is not only about what is being said about Roma and to Roma, it is also about what is or is not being done to combat structural discrimination and dehumanisation. As such, it is also a root cause of Roma exclusion in Europe.

Eight years ago, the EU adopted measures for Roma inclusion, but European Roma continue to live in a deplorable situation. Discrimination, hate crime and speech, police brutality and segregation persist across EU countries and fuel exclusion of Roma from society. This highlights the urgency of stepping up efforts to tackle structural and institutional racism so that Roma can finally become equal citizens in their societies.

This will require that structures that monitor racism, discrimination, hate crime, hate speech, policy implementation are revised and strengthened to effectively document and combat antigypsyism in all its complexity. Civil servants, educators, care workers, police, judiciary and other relevant official bodies need to receive training in how to recognise and combat antigypsyism. The EU and national governments must allocate specific and adequate funding to programmes aiming to fighting antigypsyism. Roma civil society must also be empowered to advocate for better policies and make their concerns heard at the local, national and EU level. They have a crucial watchdog role to make public institutions accountable.

EU decision makers must realise that social inclusion programmes will have no impact if racist narratives and discriminatory practices are left unaddressed. A growing sense of impunity for toxic discourses and violent acts will undermine implementation of these programmes on the ground. By fighting antigypsyism, including within institutions, we can secure a better place for Roma in Europe.

Workshop on trafficking in Roma children

ERGO Network’s research and advocacy coordinator Jelena Jovanovic held a workshop addressing the trafficking in Roma children in the framework of the seminar ‘Combatting the exploitation of children’ organised by the Benelux working group on human trafficking on 17th November 2017. The workshop was organised and co-facilitated by Maaike van Groenestyn, senior advisor of the municipality of Amsterdam.

In two consecutive workshop sessions, the participants could share their experiences in dealing with trafficking as well as learn about new approaches from ERGO’s expertise and from each other.

After hearing case studies brought by Christiane Roelants from the Brussels Police, the participants discussed all the possible factors they believe put Roma children in a vulnerable position, as well as specific forms of trafficking where Roma child victims are (over)represented. They also reflected on challenges in identifying and dealing with cases of Roma children victims of trafficking and offered solutions to overcome the challenges. It was highlighted that antigypsyism plays an important role as a risk factor for Roma children victims of trafficking. A particular focus was given to the role of institutions and organizations in the anti-trafficking policy mechanisms.

ERGO Network has a new website!

With this newsletter, we present you our new website – more structured, more colourful and with a lot more content than before. We will regularly update the website with news from our members and institutional developments, upload documents, inform about ERGO projects and campaigns and update ERGO’s membership list.

Browse through ERGO’s and our members policy papers and find institutional policy documents on the Resources page.

Find out which organisations belong to the network on the Membership page.

Read more about ERGO’s work in the fields of Monitoring, Networking, Campaigning and Empowering.

We hope that you like the new online portal of ERGO Network and will be a regular visitor.

Antigypsyism at local level – recommendations from Romania

For the first time on 6 September 2017 in Ploiesti, ERGO together with its member Centrul de Resurse pentru Incluziune Sociala CRIS from Romania brought the topic of antigypsyism to the local level. Among the speakers were the Head of the European Commission’s Roma unit from DG Justice, Szabolcs Schmidt, representatives of the Romanian government and key actors from Romania who work on Roma issues.

ERGO’s Director Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova highlighted the importance of bringing up the issue of antigypsism at local level and of supporting institutions to understand its long term effects and its implications.

The mayor of the city of Ploiesti committed to reintegrate Roma people in his region.

Based on their experiences with working on the CLLD process, trainings with Local Action Group and their engagement at local level Asociatia Cris wrote a comprehensive recommendation paper addressed to the Mayor of Ploiesti with the aim of improving the situation of the local communities Mimiu and Catun.

The three main recommendations proposed are:

  • A more coherent design of intervention measures
  • A stronger role and participation of Roma
  • Combatting antigypsyism at the centre of policies.

To read the full paper with detailed recommendations from our member please click here.