There is one ethnic group in Europe that is still treated as "unworthy", including in countries that like to consider themselves democratic and equal. Before giving you more details about their current situation, I would like to remind you that between 200,000 and 1,500,000 members of this ethnic minority were killed and tortured during WWII. These people were not granted any reparations after the war, and their situation has not improved much. Or what do you say about such things as forced sterilisation, discrimination, harassment, ghettos, and murder? Sounds really nice, right? And it's happening right in front of our very own noses, in the Europe that we are so proud of. Below you will find some extracts from a report for the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, published in 2010. The whole report can be found here.
The Roma, estimated at between 10 and 12 million people, constitute the largest minority in Europe and are present in virtually all Council of Europe member states.
This minority has been suffering profound discrimination for centuries and, even today, is still frequently rejected by the rest of the population because of deep-seated prejudices. Moreover, in these times of economic crisis, this highly vulnerable minority presents an easy target and is used as a scapegoat.
It has to be recognised that the efforts undertaken to improve the situation of Roma have produced very limited results so far. The situation faced by Roma in terms of access to education, employment, health services and housing or in terms of social integration is still very often deplorable, not to say scandalous.
Several provocative marches have been organised by radical nationalist groups/parties in some Council of Europe member states (eg. Hungary and the Czech Republic) in areas inhabited by Roma.
In the first half of 2009, violent racist attacks against Roma involving Molotov cocktails occurred in the Czech Republic.
In France, in the second half of 2009, a Roma camp was approached by state officials who stamped people on the hand or arm so that they could be “better tracked”.
On 11 May 2008, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica quoted Mr Roberto Maroni, Italy’s Minister ofthe Interior, as saying that “All Roma camps will have to be dismantled right away, and the inhabitants will be either expelled or incarcerated”. The rhetoric fight against insecurity has led to obvious abuses in Italy. The authorities have, amongst other measures, fingerprinted the Roma, photographed Roma children, brutally evicted Roma from their camps and left unpunished numerous arson attacks on the sheds serving as their homes.
In 2008, some municipalities in Romania, like Brasov, have built walls to separate the Roma from the non-Roma community. A similar wall was recently built in the district of Beja, Portugal.
In the Slovak Republic, in Kosice, in April 2009, six Roma children (aged between 11 and 16) became victims of police abuse. They were forced by police officers to undress, slap and kiss each other. The police officers filmed the scenes.
In the regions of Chernigiv and Odessa in Ukraine, announcements were posted on the streets asking people to immediately call the police if they saw a Roma.
Everyone agrees that access to education is fundamental. However, Roma children remain excluded from quality education in many member states. They are either segregated into Roma-only classes, unjustly considered unfit for normal classes (and shunted into schools for disabled children) or – even worse – they
cannot even attend school at all.
In the Czech Republic, Roma segregation in primary education remains a serious concern. Romapupils are often assigned to special schools “... designed for children and pupils aged 3 to 19 who are mentally and/or physically handicapped, with impaired hearing, vision and/or speech, with developmental disorders”.
the Commissioner for Human Rights, in his memorandum of November 2008 following his visit to France, reported that despite the schooling obligation and a growing request from French Travellers to send their children to school, certain municipalities continue to refuse to admit these children to primary schools, using excuses such as the short schooling period due to a nomadic lifestyle, an ongoing eviction procedure or the lack of space in the classrooms.
In October 2009, the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union concludes that “it is clear(…) that large numbers of Roma and Travellers in the EU do not enjoy equal treatment in this respect and are living in substandard conditions which fall far below even the minimum criteria of adequate housing”.