Strasbourg, 7 April 2015: We mark this day by celebrating the rich Romani culture and the diverse contributions of Roma to our societies. On this day, the Roma can stand up and proudly say “We are Roma: this is what we are.”
It is however, also on this day that we recall the constant rejection of the Roma in all countries and in all walks of life. The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) expresses its strong solidarity with all those Roma who still experience extreme poverty, miserable conditions, fear and discrimination in their daily lives. Current conditions are an affront to human dignity everywhere.
Roma continue to face wide-ranging discrimination in access to education, employment, housing, and healthcare. In recent years, the global economic crisis has slowed down progress in addressing these challenges and led to an increase of anti-Gypsyism, often expressed through violent attacks of the Roma communities. The walling off of some Roma villages from neighbouring areas and the eviction of entire communities of Roma families from their homes vividly illustrates their exclusion and isolation. We cannot ignore these deeply troubling developments. No country can meet 21st century challenges with a large segment of its population discriminated, intimidated and excluded.Europe seems to have forgotten the central lesson of the past century – Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We take this occasion to pay tribute to those who have fought, and continue to fight – despite the hardship and sacrifice involved – for equality and the right of all people to live with respect and dignity. The struggle to break down the prejudices towards Roma and to eliminate discrimination is essential to the struggle for social justice and a better world, which is the responsibility of us all.
The ERTF calls upon all Council of Europe member states to honour their legally and politically binding obligations and commitments to secure equal opportunities and support for the Roma community. We encourage all states which have not yet done so, to ratify all these legally and politically binding documents as soon as possible and to resist the appeal of anti-Gypsy ideas and policies.
There are enormous challenges ahead in the quest for equal opportunities for all - from achieving more effective coordination and mobilisation of resources at the international level, to building better capacity at the national and local levels. All of us can play a part in raising awareness of these challenges; all of us can play our part in overcoming them.
We call on all the Roma to express openly their pride in being Roma, pride in their culture, their language and in their traditions; to stand up fearlessly against marginalisation and humiliation and claim loudly their right to be treated as equal citizens in the country they live in.