Anti-Gypsyism is generally defined as a form of discrimination against Roma – a policy of providing for the Roma lesser services and lesser opportunities than for the majority population.
The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) believes that anti-Gypsyism goes well beyond discrimination – it is a policy of non-acceptance of the Roma as compatriots and equal citizens, leading to rejection from school, work, housing and health services.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), in a Recommendation on combating anti-Gypsyism and discrimination against Roma, adopted in June 2011, captures this essential element of anti-Gypsyism when it defines it as “a specific form of racism, an ideology founded on racial superiority, a form of dehumanization and institutional racism.”
During the last few months we have witnessed throughout Europe this policy of rejection at work. The best example was given by the District Chamber of Commerce in the Czech town of Usti nad Labem. In an open call to local politicians and citizens, the Chamber warns of a demographic catastrophe caused by the negative immigration of inadaptable inhabitants. The Chamber proposes counting the number of Roma, which are described as “inadaptables”, and placing them in ghettoes patrolled by the Army.
Locking the Roma up is one solution. The Council at Miskolc in Hungary has come up with another solution. The Council plans to eliminate a Roma neighbourhood and offer compensation to the evicted on condition that they do not return to Miskolc for five years.
In Italy, the authorities have been less subtle. In Rome, Viareggio and Legnano Roma camps have been totally destroyed and the Roma chased away. In the commune of Vicenza the mayor was unambiguous. He put up posters at the entrance to and around town stating “We do not want the Roma”.
A third solution has been devised by the Mayor of Kyustendil in Bulgaria. The Mayor plans to exclude the Roma living in a particular quarter from voting in local elections. Short of locking them up in ghettoes or sending them away homeless, the mayor chose to ignore their existence in the community.
A group of skinheads in Sofia, Bulgaria, decided to go further – on 20 June, 2015, they attacked and beat up a Roma father and his two sons who were returning by bus from a religious service, for the simple reason that they were Roma. Nobody on the bus tried to help and the bus driver opened the doors to let them out. Neither this event nor the anti-Roma violence throughout the second half of June in various parts of Sofia have been reported by major media agency, and with the exception of some NGOs, nobody seemed worried by the climate of fear and insecurity in which the Roma live.
The Minister of the Interior of the Slovak Republc is not a simple mayor of a village or representative of a provincial chamber of commerce, and he is definitely not a skinhead. Yet his statement that incest occurs among the Roma more frequently than in other communities is bound to fuel even more anti-Gypsyism. This statement is particularly serious as it is used by the Slovak government to justify putting Roma children in special schools. In response to April’s launch of infringement proceedings by the European Commission for violating EU anti-discrimination legislation, the Slovak government pleaded that the disproportionate number of Roma children in special schools is due to the frequency of incest in Roma families which leads to developmental disorders in their children.
The ERTF feels that the unrelenting upsurge of anti-Gypsyism in recent months should sound the alarm to all international organisations that have at heart the defence of vulnerable minorities against human rights violations.
Condemnationss raise awareness but do not lead to change. The ERTF believes that pressure is needed by International organisations on their member states. The EU should make more use of infringement proceedings and the Council of Europe should take a more forceful stance than simply recommending reforms.
The ERTF would like to warn member states and international organisations that there is a limit to how much humiliation and deprivation the Roma are prepared to support. Past and recent events have shown that anti-Roma aggressions can degenerate into a riot. Urgent reforms are needed to avoid civil strife.