EU, Commission acts to close gaps in race equality rules

27 Giugno 2007 Commenti chiusi

The Commission has sent formal requests to 14 Member States to fully implement EU rules banning discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin (2000/43/CE). The countries concerned – Spain, Sweden, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Ireland, United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Slovakia – have two months to respond, failing which the Commission can take them to the European Court of Justice.

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Romania, politicians still use racist language against Roma

27 Giugno 2007 Commenti chiusi

Romas Center for Social Intervention Romani CRISS, Press Monitoring Agency, or PMA and ERGO organization submitted Tuesday, June 9, a complaint to the National Council to Fight Discrimination, or CNCD, considering that Social Democrat deputy Vasile Dancu displayed a racist stance in saying his party ?should make a difference between gypsidom and social-democracy.?

Dancu?s statement ? in a conflict with one of his party colleague ? indirectly pertained to Marian Vanghelie, who despite of the fact he did not publicly assumed his origin, he is in fact ethnic Roma. Starting from this premise, the three organizations asked for “public apologizing, this time from the Social Democratic Party.

We ask Dancu to apologize as this kind of language is neither admissible nor tolerated and it is time that all of us become aware of that. We hope the ideologist of the Romanian PSD understands the doctrine he enforces refers to «equal opportunities between all country?s citizens», and discrimination is an unconceivable action in a social democracy,” Romani Criss said in a press statement.

Moreover, Romani Criss CEO Magda Matache said to the press the offence brought against the ethnic Romas through the statement of the PSD vice-president is similar to that of president Traian Basescu against a TV reporter. “A politician makes senseless reference against the ethnic Romas. We feel offended and we hope that PSD head Mircea Geoana takes a stand against Dancu?s statement. He should publicly apologize,” Magda Matache said.

© Divers

Situation of Czech, Slovak Romanies still wrong – Report

27 Giugno 2007 Commenti chiusi

Romanies in Eastern Europe, including the Czech Republic and Slovakia, are still being pushed to the edge of society, according to a study, worked out with support of the EU, the World Bank and billionaire George Soros, which was presented in Sofia today.

The study says that the countries would have to determine and fulfil binding goals to improve the integration of the Romany minority into society. Two years ago, eight Eastern and Central European countries, including the Czech Republic an Slovakia, launched “The Decade of Roma Inclusion” (2005-2015) international programme to improve the situation of Romanies.

The study says that trustworthy data on Romanies are still missing along with the assessment of the achieved goals in Romany integration. Philanthropist Soros called on the governments of the countries participating in the programme to better use resources in order to improve the living conditions of Romanies and create more opportunities for them.

Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovakia, where some 10 million Romanies live in total, according to estimates, pledged to pass new anti-discrimination laws and improve the access to education and health care for Romanies at the summit in Sofia two years ago.

However, in spite of that, thousands of Romanies are still living in very poor conditions in deprived settlements without electricity and running water, being segregated from the majority population. Romanies have worse access to health care and other social services and more difficulties to find jobs, the study says.

© Prague Daily Monitor

Finland, satirical tv programme sparks controversy among finnish Roma

27 Giugno 2007 Commenti chiusi

The Finnish Roma Forum has asked the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) to suspend broadcasts of the summer comedy series Manne-TV. In an appeal sent to the YLE, the series, which aired its first programme on June 2nd, is denounced as demeaning to the Roma, or Gipsy population.

The organisation claims that it is racist, that it underscores prejudices, and that it could undermine the results of years of work to change attitudes. Other fears include a prospect of increased violence between the Roma community and other Finns, as well as an increase in ethnically based school bullying.

YLE Programme Director Harri Virtanen stands behind the show, most of whose producers and actors are Roma themselves. He says that Manne-TV will not be cancelled, and that it would continue to air on Saturday and Sunday evenings. “If the series really increases school bullying, for instance, I would naturally be very sorry, but it is not the purpose of the series”, Virtanen says.

“The target of the series is the population at large and its prejudices. If someone watching the series thinks ?is that how I think?’, or ?do I have attitudes like that?’, then we will be fairly close to the aim of the series”. Nevertheless, changes are planned in the content of Manne-TV.

In the future there will be a greater effort to specifically deal with prejudices of the majority population toward the Roma. “Finland is said to be a tolerant society, but this series has again raised the racism of the majority population. If the topic is this big, it is good that it has been raised, and is being debated”, Virtanen says.

The Roma Forum, which called for the cancellation of the show, is an umbrella organisation of Finnish Roma organisations, focusing on equal treatment under the law for the Roma population. According to the group’s vice president Mertsi Lindgren, Manne-TV contains overt incitement against a population group. The Roma Forum is actually considering the possibility of submitting a criminal complaint on the matter.

“First we need to meet with the Minority Affairs Ombudsman and to discuss it with [YLE Director-General] Mikael Jungner.” Minority Affairs Ombudsman Mikko Puumalainen has not yet studied the appeal of the Roma Forum. “I want to discuss the matter with representatives of the forum before I form an opinion on the matter”, Puumalainen says. Lindgren says that the Roma Forum took action on the basis of negative feedback from the Roma community.

“We have also heard from the majority population that the programme does not work”, Lindgren adds. Response received by YLE on the programme has been more negative than positive. “We get feedback from all programmes, but it dies not shake our decisions”, Harri Virtanen says.

© Helsingin Sanomat

Czech Rep/Slovakia, Amnesty says Romanies discriminated against

29 Maggio 2007 Commenti chiusi

Romanies in the Czech Republic and Slovakia were seriously discriminated against in access to education, health care, housing and work in 2006, the Amnesty International (AI) human rights organisation says in its annual report released today.

It says that Romanies and other endangered groups in the Czech Republic were also subject of police mistreatment and racist attacks. AI bases its information, among others, on a report by the Council of Europe human rights commissioner, according to which Romany children in the Czech Republic and Slovakia were unjustifiably placed in special schools for children with mental troubles.

AI, however, recalls last year’s European Human Rights Court’s verdict rejecting the complaint by 18 young Romanies from the Ostrava region, north Moravia, about their alleged discrimination in education. The court conceded that the complaint was based on certain serious arguments but it concluded that the rules for Czech children’s admission to special schools have no racial subtext.

Referring to U.N. documents, AI also says that almost 75 percent Slovak Romany households depend on support from the state, municipalities and charity organisations. AI also recalls the Czech government’s decision of May that criticises the Czech ombudsman’s recommendation in 2005 that a bill be passed to secure compensation for the women who had been sterilised without giving consent to it.

The AI report also mentions the Czech police attack on official Katerina Jacques, who has become a deputy for the Greens (SZ) in the meantime, when she protested against a May Day demonstration of neo-Nazis in Prague.

© Prague Daily Monitor

EU values at risk over treatment of migrants and Roma

29 Maggio 2007 Commenti chiusi

In its 2007 human rights report, leading human rights organisation Amnesty International argues “the EU as a beacon ‘union of values’ looked increasingly ambivalent” over the past year, with the treatment of migrants, asylum seekers and its own Roma population highlighted as the key subjects of concern.

“The lack of long-term sustainable solutions and the discourse of fear that dominates political agendas have led to disturbing manifestations of racism and discrimination in Europe,” said the NGO. Its world-wide monitoring review – unveiled on Wednesday (23 May) – criticises most member states on a wide range of issues.

In the area of security, Amnesty repeats its previous complaints of the complicity of several EU governments ? mainly Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK – with US intelligence agency CIA on renditions of terrorist suspects.

According to the report, the security forces of Germany, Turkey and the UK had taken advantage of the situation by interrogating individuals subject to rendition, while the British government “continued to undermine the universal ban on torture” by trying to deport the terror suspects to countries where they potentially faced ill-treatment.

“Almost as bad as allowing these acts to occur in Europe has been European governments’ failure to recognize them and to take measures to prevent such abuses from happening again,” said Dick Oosting, the Director of Amnesty’s EU office. “Europe betrays its values if it remains trapped in this denial. It has a leadership role to play but in order to set a credible example outside, it first needs to clean up its act at home,” he added.

Refugees and Roma people
Although the authors of the study suggest there is a general trend in the EU in violations against foreign nationals on member states’ territory, Greece, Italy, Malta and the UK are singled out for cases of unlawful detention of migrants or for having denied necessary guidance and legal support to new arrivals. These tendencies are reflected in European legislation becoming more unfavourable to asylum-seekers and migrants, with a new French law for example tying residence permits for migrants to pre-existing work contracts “putting migrants at risk of exploitation in the workplace,” according to the report. In terms of discrimination against own nationals, several member states continue to have problems ensuring the fair treatment of Roma people. The Roma communities remain “largely excluded from public life and unable to enjoy full access to rights such as housing, employment and health services,” Amnesty says. The NGO points out that in countries such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Roma children have not been integrated into the education system but rather segregated in special classes or schools, including schools with a reduced curriculum.

Intolerance on sexuality grounds – in some cases fostered by national authorities – has been reported in Poland and Latvia, with gay and lesbian organisations facing obstructions when trying to organize public events in reaction to “openly homophobic language used by some highly placed politicians.” Finally, the report also draws attention to the problems faced by thousands of people from ex-Yugoslavia currently living in Slovenia who had been unlawfully erased from the registers of permanent residents. It also looks at the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia, which has limited access to the labour market due to restrictive linguistic and minority rights. “Inability to solve these serious problems has in practice created thousands of ‘second class citizens’ in Europe,” the Amnesty report concluded.

© EUobserver

Romanian president in racism row after spat with journalist

29 Maggio 2007 Commenti chiusi

Romanian President Traian Basescu, fresh from a clear victory in a weekend referendum to decide on his possible impeachment, on Monday faced accusations of having made racist comments and theft of a mobile telephone following an altercation with a journalist.

Romania’s National Council against Discrimination said it was to summon Basescu to explain the incident, which has sparked protests by journalists’ unions and human rights groups.

The alleged incident occurred Saturday, the day of the referendum, as a journalist recorded footage of Basescu on her mobile phone as he was shopping with his wife in a Bucharest supermarket.

As the president was packing his purchases into his car, the reporter questioned him on what was the expected outcome of the vote. An angry Basescu responded “have you nothing better to do?”, snatched the journalist’s telephone and drove from the scene.

As he departed, the president is alleged to have commented to his wife on how aggressive the reporter was, describing the woman as a “stinking gypsy.”

The mobile telephone, which was still recording, is alleged to have captured his comment. Basescu’s security staff are believed to have neglected to delete the recording before the telephone was later returned to the journalist.

Basescu scored around 75 per cent backing in Saturday’s referendum, engineered by opposition and government parties over the president’s alleged interference in political affairs as part of his anti-corruption drive.


Roma people are more likely to be stopped by police officers, report by OSI

29 Maggio 2007 Commenti chiusi

Roma people are more likely to be stopped by police officers. This is one of the conclusions of a recent study written for OSI (Open society justice initiative).

?I can stop and search whoever I want? is a book realized in 2007 by Open Society Justice Initiative, which examines police stopping ethnic minorities in Bulgaria, Hungary and Spain.

This report was written by Joel Miller and based upon research conducted in three countries representing the situation of minorities in Europe. The scope of the study was to address ethnic profiling by police in Europe. Ethnic profiling means the use of ethnic, religious or racial stereotypes as a basis for decisions about who could be involved in criminal or terrorist activity.

This discrimination breaches fundamental human rights, but it has not been expressly outlawed by any European government; because of this, it is impossible to develop strategies that address police behavior with minority communities. In each country the researchers conducted interviews with 60 or more police officers and members of minority groups.

The results, for all, indicate that the police practice ethnic profiling. However, there is a lot of points which defies the situation in each selected country. In Bulgaria and Hungary, Roma are the largest of ethnic minority. They are at social and economic disadvantages and are overrepresented in the national criminal justice system.

In Spain, indeed, the Roma represent about 1.5 percent of the population. Few of them hold salaried or independent jobs, most of them holding part-time positions or informal labor. They have problem of discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other services.

National law of examined countries gives wide discretion in conducting stops and searches. To be Roma is a factor of suspicion. As a result, Roma (in all three countries) and migrants (in Spain) have often negative experiences during police stops with numerous examples of disrespectful and humiliating treatment.

Certainly, many Roma community members believe that the police engage in ethnic profiling. “I get stopped almost every day in the center by police. Sometimes twice a day”, said a Spanish interviewee. In Bulgaria and Hungary, patrol officers interviewed, said that the stops are more frequent when someone is an outsider to the town, or village (often a Roma). Roma origin can be a basis for a stop.

In Spain, officers rarely suggested that Roma identity was a direct reason for suspicion. Instead they said Roma were stopped because they are more likely to be involved in criminal activity. The experiences of stops there is evidence of ethnic profiling, which can be worse for ethnic minorities.

Police officers in Bulgaria and Hungary who described ethnic profiling referred primarily to Roma, while officers in Spain who described ethnic profiling referred primarily to immigrants rather than Roma. Police stops do not closely adhere to international good practice for reducing crime. The report, also, suggests a range of possible improvements to police stop procedures.

Important is an accord about legal standards prohibiting ethnic profiling, at international and regional levels. But each state must also supervise the stopping situation within their own territory by implementing systems for monitoring police activity, such as stops and identity checks. The scope is that patrol officers respect human rights during their work with Roma or migrants people.

© Dzeno Association

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Czech Rep, nationalists disturb act marking Czech Romany wartime victims

29 Maggio 2007 Commenti chiusi

Five members of the far-right Czech National Party (NS) disturbed a commemorative event marking the victims of the wartime Nazi internment camp for Czech Romanies in Lety today. Nationalists got into a verbal clash with the organisers.

The police interfered and expelled the nationalists from the place. During a mass, the NS members displayed banners recollecting Czech policemen who guarded Romanies in the camp and died of typhoid then. The NS banners included slogans as “300,000 Czech victims of Nazism often without a single memorial,” “German labour facility – German responsibility,” and “Czech policemen – victims of typhoid epidemic in the labour camp.”

The nationalist argued they only wanted to remind of forgotten victims of Nazism. However, participants in the commemorative event, including junior ruling Greens deputy Ondrej Liska, said it was a provocation.

Cenek Ruzicka, chairman of the Committee for Compensation of Romany Holocaust (VPORH), organising today’s event, recalled that 326 prisoners, including 240 children, perished in the Lety camp. Part of them died of typhoid, some of hunger, he added.

The VPORH has been in the long run demanded that the pig farm in Lety, built on the premises of the wartime camp for Czech Romanies, be removed. Romany activists point out that it defames the victims’ memory. The EP also called on the Czech Republic to remove the pig farm.

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (for Greens), who took part on today’s act of commemoration in Lety, pushed for the removal of the pig farm as well. “Since it is undignified to have a pig farm at the place where people were dying.

No other reason is needed,” Schwarzenberg told reporters. The Czech state negotiated with the AGPI company, owning the pig farm complex, in the past, most recently in 2005 under the Social Democrats (CSSD)-led government, but in vain. The current centre-right government originally also planned to purchase the farm.

Though the price was not officially releases, speculation emerged that it could amount to hundreds of millions of crowns. Minister in charge of minority agenda Dzamila Stehlikova (Greens) said previously that the government would not have finances for the purchase.

PM Mirek Topolanek (ODS) confirmed it a month ago. He said that a new memorial should be build next to the pig farm. However, the VPORH opposes the idea. According to historical documents, some 1,308 Romanies were deported to Lety during WW2, while 326 people perished there and more than 500 of its inmates ended up in the extermination camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Minister: Czech Agency to lead ‘motivated’ romanies out of ghetto

29 Maggio 2007 Commenti chiusi

The emerging Czech Agency for Romany Integration wants to focus on “motivated” Romany families, that is those whose children attend school, parents seek jobs, etc. and take them out of ghettoes, Minister for Ethnic Minorities Dzamila Sthelikova told today’s issue of daily Pravo.

“Don’t believe that all Romanies want to live on social benefits,” she said. The majority society cannot say “let them live there and don’t let us bother about them,” Stehlikova said. She said that shunning the ghetto issue solves nothing, and cited the example of France that “boasted of stately neighbourhoods on the edge of Paris.

The time bomb went off after decades, the minorities have not been integrated. Such situation does not threaten in the Czech Republic, yet it is a sort of warning,” Stehlikova said. She said that street workers and NGOs will deal with Romany families on an individual basis.

They will have to prevent their further social decline. They will see to it that they pay housing rents in time so that they do not run into debt. They will look to that children attend school and check how these people cooperate with the labour offices, Stehlikova said. All this should somehow be linked to the Romanies receiving social benefits, she added. Stehlikova said that integration will be no easy task and that it will take decades.

Stehlikova, who has lived in a strongly-Romany part of Chomutov, north Bohemia, for 18 years, said that she is sure “her” housing estate will not turn into a ghetto. Flowers have grown outside the house and no one dares to tear them, representatives of the majority society are not fleeing from the housing estate, which is good, she said. “Romany minorities inhabitants must not live isolated from the others,” Stehlikova told Pravo.

Stehlikova, a physician by training, said that she thinks that it is never pointless to help people, but the help must be effective. She said that the state policy has been a failure because it worked with one pattern and made it possible to abuse the social system.

Stehlikova said that problems at different places are different and that projects for particular municipalities will tailored through the agency. She said that no exact figures of Romanies living in the Czech Republic exist, but that a qualified estimate puts their total at 300,000 to 350,000. Stehlikova said that many Romanies do not claim their origin.

In Brno, for instance, about 17,000 Romanies live, but statistics speak about only 450 of them. Asked how she wants to motivate Romanies to seek jobs in regions where there are none even for “the whites,” Stehlikova said that retraining must be targeted. She said that even in regions with a high unemployment rate there are still vacancies that are filled by foreigners: Slovaks, Poles and others.

“Don’t let us try to turn Romanies into administrative workers or computer specialists,” Stehlikova said and added that retraining should be directed so that they could do jobs that are available.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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