Roma Holocaust Memorial Day 2022

“My testimony is for young people: Don’t leave your future in the hands of bloody fools! You must resist. You must resist the discrimination, racism, and violent evictions to which the Roma and Travellers are falling victim across all of Europe. We, the old ones, have lit the flame. Now, it is up to young people to feed it, make it grow, and so that we become stronger. Young people, stand up! Stay standing, and never fall to your knees!”

Speech of Raymond Gurême, Roma Holocaust survivor, to Roma youth in Auschwitz-Birkenau on August 2, 2016

Imagine a room filled with light somewhere in a quiet town in a peaceful and economically stable country in Europe. This room is full of young people, some of them Roma, some of them not – discussing history, arguing about some interpretations, and agreeing on others. Until someone utters: “I am afraid it can happen again” – and for a little while silence falls. The year is 2022.

Almost 80 years ago, on 16 May 1944, many of the 6,000 prisoners still alive in the “Gypsy camp” at Auschwitz-Birkenau resisted their murder. Around half of them were deported to other concentration camps for forced labour. The remaining 2,897 survivors – mostly children, women, and elderly people – were murdered in the gas chambers on the night of 2 August and the early morning of 3 August, 1944.

Each year on 2 August, we commemorate the Roma people who were murdered in Europe during WWII. This day is the official commemoration day in many European countries. Yet even now, 80 years later, the Holocaust remains an open wound, hurting throughout generations the young people today.

In most European countries, there was no official apology given to the survivors or their relatives by the state for the wrongdoings of the war. The reconciliation process was not started, because there was no official acknowledgement of the atrocities done to the Roma communities during the Holocaust, and therefore no promise to never ever do this again.

Moreover, the murders of 5-year-old Robika Csorba and his father in 2009 in Hungary and that of Stanislav Tomáš in the Czech Republic just recently in 2021, derogatory statements by high-level politicians, neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic and now the treatment of Roma refugees from Ukraine as second-class humans proves that the fears voiced by the young people are not completely ungrounded.

We welcome and applaud DIKH HE NA BISTER (“Look and don’t forget” in Romani) – the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative and other youth initiatives that offer a space and an opportunity for youngsters to learn about the past while strengthening their Roma identity. We welcome the resolution of the European Parliament in 2015 to officially recognise 2 August as European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.

However, we also must understand that the mass killing on the 2nd of August or the Holocaust as a whole was not a stand-alone moment in history. It takes hundreds of years of antigypsyism, direct and indirect discrimination, and often actions which appear harmless – to lead and build up to this.

It is only by fighting antigypsyism in all its ugly forms today that can we prevent a tragedy of such scope from happening tomorrow.

It is by remembering our past, and teaching the children this part of history, that we can ensure the future we want.

It is by speaking up about what happened, questioning discriminatory practices, and making our inconvenient truth heard that we can avoid the atrocities committed against our communities.

Safer online spaces for Roma: Must be backed up by action!

Safer online spaces for Roma: Must be backed up by action!

Twitter believes that everybody should be empowered every day to speak their mind about issues that matter most to them and to be part of the public conversation.

Unfortunately, not everyone at Twitter has the same positive experience. Historically marginalised and underrepresented groups have important messages and ideas which can inspire everyone around the world and raise awareness about important issues in our societies. Individuals identifying with these groups, however, sometimes face harassment and abuse on the platform, which can jeopardize their freedom of expression.

Given our background and experience with antigypsyist hate speech online, Mustafa Jakupov, policy and project coordinator of ERGO network was invited to take part in the EMEA Safer Internet Day Summit on the 10th of February to make sure the Roma voices are heard.

We believe that everybody needs to feel safe online, to get active, and to speak up in front of a global audience.

Safer internet twitter summit

The use of “innocent jokes” does not soften the online hate speech against Roma, but it perpetuates stereotypes and prejudices under an umbrella of humour where other aggressive comments and xenophobic spreads are distributed and multiplied. The recent example of the comedian Jimmy Carr in his show Dark Matter on Netflix proves this.

The British comedian has, in a recent Netflix stand-up special, said that:

“When people talk about the Holocaust, they are talking about the tragedy of 6 million Jewish lives lost to the Nazi war machine. But they never mention the thousands of Gypsies killed by the Nazis. Nobody ever wants to talk about it because nobody ever wants to talk about the positive aspects.”

The whole statement was dressed up as an edgy and even more – educational – joke, playing the card of “if you don’t laugh, you are just not smart enough to understand it”. However, although in his later performances Jimmy Carr has kept to his image of a brave honest man making fun of serious matters, the hypocrisy lies on the surface. He is not making fun of Holocaust per se, only targeting the two most vulnerable groups of the survivors (Roma and Jehovah’s Witnesses). The comedian is acting as a regular bully attacking only those, who he knows will not fight back – and thus feeding into the general discourse of antigypsyism and hate speech.

Hate speech as a manifestation of antigypsyism needs particular attention because of its multiplier effect:

  •  It influences public opinion, fuels tension, and paves the way for discrimination and hate crimes. Online media plays a particular role in spreading and inciting hate speech. It strengthens stereotypes, uses offensive language, denies, or trivializes antigypsyism.
  •  Through social media hate speech reaches millions of people and allows perpetrators to anonymously incite hatred and violence.

Safer internet twitter summit

‘Haters’ do not use the term Roma but some hybrid terms that all society acknowledges as Roma. This requires IT companies to have knowledge of these terms, or in other words, the IT companies must keep up with the different forms of online antigypsyism.

Living in the times of Covid-19, online antigypsyism is becoming normalized for the whole society and not just the right-wing supporters. Laws are important, but prevention should be more highlighted. Therefore, creating a space for Roma where they can create content for counter-narratives is important, because finding quality content on Roma is hard. Another weak link in antigypsyism is the data collection as this will show the dimensions of hate speech.

The use of artificial intelligence to detect hate speech before it is posted is being developed, however, this might be tricky as the language is evolving as well and the AI models must adapt. On the other hand, people must be present as they will need to finalize the decision. This brings us to the importance of filing complaints.

Collaboration between CSO and IT platforms is crucial and there should be mutual learning and recommendations input. This also needs to be reflected in a form of cooperation between institutions, media, and CSO’s, where opportunities for spreading counter-narratives are supported, a distinctive law framework is created to criminalize hate speech and effective mechanisms are put in place that would involve CSO’s in the development of AI models and software in order to avoid further discrimination of marginalized groups in online places.

Our member organisation Pavee Point receives the 2020 Max van der Stoel Award

We congratulate our member Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre. The organisation has received the Max van der Stoel Award in recognition of its achievements in advocating and protecting the rights of Traveller and Roma communities in Ireland.

The 2020 Award Ceremony was postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, but on 19 November 2021 Chairperson Anastasia Crickley and Co-Director Martin Collins could attend the award ceremony in the Hague.

For more information visit the OSCE HCNM website.

Fundamental Rights Forum 2021

Fundamental Rights Forum 2021: Monitoring, preventing and countering antigypsyism

Every year, the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency invites policy-makers, civil society and other stakeholders to the “Fundamental Rights Forum”, as a space for dialogue on human rights challenges facing the EU today.

At this year’s edition of the Forum on 11-12 October 2021, ERGO Network together with the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma hosted a session to examine how antigypsyism can be effectively monitored, prevented and countered under the national Roma strategic frameworks both as a horizontal and stand-alone priority. Under the new EU Roma Strategic Framework 2021-2030, national governments are expected to develop mechanisms for reporting, monitoring and evaluation of progress on Roma equality, inclusion and participation towards set targets, including by improving data collection and setting Roma indicators.

The panellists discussed the role of the European Commission, the Fundamental Rights Agency, Equality Bodies and civil society in this regard and shed light on the challenges of effectively monitoring antigypsyism in the EU Member States, as well as enlargement countries. Panellists included Bernard Rorke (European Roma Rights Centre), Angelika Grabher-Wusche (Fundamental Rights Agency), Tamas Kadar (Equinet) and Markus End (Adviser, Germany) who discussed with Guillermo Ruiz (Central Council for German Sinti and Roma) and Isabela Mihalache (ERGO Network).

The experts expressed in particular the need for a shift of data collection from individual incidents and perceptions of discrimination to monitoring structural and institutional antigypsyism. Even though antigypsyism is increasingly recognised by policy-makers, all panellists agreed that in EU Member States and enlargement countries there is still a significant lack of political will, especially when it comes to addressing structural racism. Data collection as is an valuable tool to show policy-makers where action is needed. The speakers agreed that during the past years, the Fundamental Rights Agency has collected clear evidence of antigypsyism for policy-makers and derived positive conclusions and recommendations, but that this data alone does not change anything when Member States do not start to act, and can even be abused when interpreted wrongfully.

Finally, the important role of civil society in monitoring the implementation of National Roma Strategies was discussed. While civil society participation was clearly lacking in developing the national strategies, the new cycle of the Roma Civil Monitoring project will give civil society the opportunity to closely monitor its implementation.

Isabela Mihalache, Senior Policy Officer of ERGO Network, concluded the event with the call to better mainstream the fight against antigypsyism within the bigger framework of the EU Anti-Racism Action Plan. Fighting together with other racialised minorities will create synergies and help to combat structural antigypsyism.

Looking back at the Romani Week 2021

Looking back at the Romani Week 2021

For the first time, due to the ongoing pandemic, Romani week was postponed from early spring this year to an online version organized from 27 to 30 September. As a platform to raise concerns, but also exchange knowledge between policymakers, experts, activists and organizations, the event focused on  debating post 2020 EU policies for Romani inclusion, advocating for specific subjects covering areas such as health, education, employment, online hate speech, environmental justice; and offerin specific recommendations on combatting antigypsyism, on the effectiveness of the post 2020 EU policies for Romani people, as well as on the national recovery and resilience plans.

ERGO Network was once again a proud co-organizer and partner to this edition of the Romani week, under the patronage of the European Parliament, European Commission and the Council of the European Union and its MEP hosts: Romeo Franz, Peter Pollák, Terry Reintke, Cornelia Ernst, Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, Tomáš Zdechovský, Evin Incir, Rasmus Andresen, Anna Júlia Donáth, Dragoș Pîslaru and Sergey Lagodinsky.

ERGO’s participation started on 27 September with the speech of director Gabriela Hrabanova at the kick-off event Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Romani People by Law, highlighting that […] one of the ways forward is to have in place legislation […] having a specific directive, it increases chances to punish also specific forms of antigypsyism [].

Are the online platforms safe for Roma?was the title of the second event during that day. Knowing that online hate speech has been steadily on the rise during the past decade, especially during the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, the event fostered a debate which led to identifying positive solutions, policy proposals, as well as advocacy points relevant for further addressing the new challenges arisen during the current pandemic that present new obstacles for a better inclusion of Roma in society. The event was hosted by MEP Pierrette Herzberger Fofana and co-organized by ERGO Network, Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG), European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), and International Network Against Cyber Hate (INACH) as part of our common efforts of to tackle antigypsyist online hate speech.

The fight against institutional antigypsyism is for the first time at the centre of the new EU Roma Framework, marking the important shift in policy development approach on Roma inclusion at EU and national level. The second co-organized event by ERGO Network, together with the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, European Roma Rights Centre, Roma Active Albania, Phiren Amenca and Equinet called Adopting National Roma Strategic Frameworks 2021 – 2030 – built on the results of the EU Platform for Roma Inclusion taking place on 21-22 September 2021 and used the results to inform about the follow-up steps by the European Commission in providing guidelines to Member States and the Enlargement region and of the civil society and other key stakeholders in the implementation and monitoring of the national Roma strategic frameworks.

The conference Addressing environmental justice in Roma communities co-organized by ERGO Network in cooperation with the European Environmental Bureau and the European Public Health Alliance on 29 September focused on awareness raising of environmental determinants of health, such as environmental discrimination against Roma communities and its impact on health to set the issue on the European and national political agenda.

ERGO’s member Roma Active Albania co-organized and implemented the EU Award for Roma Integration in the Western Balkans and Turkey, 2021 which is supported by the European Union. The award ceremony Extraordinary People Promoting Equality through Employment – as this year the emphasize was on the importance of Roma employment, as a mechanism to break the circle of exclusion, was organized live in Brussels in the Concert Noble venue on 29 September in the afternoon (read more here).

Making EU funding & finance work for Roma – was the last event co-organized by ERGO Network on the 30th of September. The very insightful event informed about different EU funds and programmes available for Roma inclusion and showcasing examples of partnership´ alliances for the efficient use of EU funds, including the example of Community-Led Local Development presented by ERGO Network member Daniel Grebeldinger from Nevo Parudimos, Romania.

Meeting during this Romani week online was truly unusual; however, it did not change the objectives of this event. More than ever, actions need to follow the words spoken those days online. Recognition of antigypsyism must be strengthened at national level as well as real political will to combat it. We now need strong cooperation between stakeholders for an effective implementation of the EU Roma Strategic Framework. Only together, we can develop strategic and coherent responses to help the Romani communities across Europe.

 

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