Archivio Dicembre 2006

Best Wishes

22 Dicembre 2006 Commenti chiusi

Sucar Drom deltomi ia Lacio Natale ia Sucar Bers Nevo che kroll

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Sucar Drom

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Roma family returns home, under slovenian police escort

8 Dicembre 2006 Commenti chiusi

Members of a large Roma family returned to their home Friday with a police escort, a month after they fled to escape their neighbors’ hostility. Seven members of the Strojans, a 30- strong Roma family, about half of whom are children, returned to the village of Ambrus in central Slovenia, which they left after local residents rallied and threatened to expel them, accusing them of theft.

The government then evicted them, saying the Strojans’ home in Ambrus was built without permits and could not be made legal. “We decided to stay here until the government finds another place for us,” Rajko Strojan told state television. “We are not afraid because the police are protecting us”.

They had spent a month in three rooms at a former army barracks at Postojna. The remaining members of the family remained there. The government has promised to help find them a permanent settlement elsewhere in Slovenia, but its efforts so far have failed because of protests by local Slovenes.

About 100 Ambrus villagers gathered near the Strojans’ house Friday but did not protest against their return. About 10 police vans were at the scene, a Reuters photographer said. The plight of the Strojans drew criticism of Slovenia, a European Union member since 2004, from the Council of Europe’s human rights watchdog.

“The police will ensure general safety of people and property”, said a police spokesman, Leon Keder. He declined to say how many police officers were guarding the Strojans. Last weekend the family tried to return home, where they had lived for 40 years, but around 1,000 angry villagers blocked the road and prevented them from coming.

© International Herald Tribune

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Romania, Roma socialization programs are poorly financed

8 Dicembre 2006 Commenti chiusi

The programs to improve ethnic Roma status are granted two euros per capita annually, executive director with Roman organization the Agency for Communitarian Development “Impreruna” Gelu Duminica said last week during a seminar.

He also said the programs were allotted EUR50 million after the ’90s, to improve the status of the ethnic Roma community totaling some 1.5 million persons. The European Union granted EUR42 million and Romania the rest of EUR8 million. “By making a simple calculation, the ethnic Roma were assigned EUR2 per capita over the past 16 years,” Gelu Duminica said.

“Some 40% of the money was spent on technical assistance: training, monitoring,” Duminica said. “The programs were evaluated over the years. Our agency developed a program on job creation, which was evaluated as the best European-like program,” Duminica also said.

© Dzeno Association

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Violence, persecution follow Roma across Europe

1 Dicembre 2006 Commenti chiusi

Miha Strojan was tending to his sick mother when the mob arrived. Wielding clubs, guns and chainsaws, several hundred villagers converged on the cottage in a clearing in the beech forest with a simple demand. “Zig raus [Gyppos out]“, they called in German, deliberately echoing Nazi racist chants. “Bomb the Gypsies”.

It was the last Saturday of last month, when the mob terrorised the extended family of more than 30 Roma, half of them children, into fleeing their clearing a mile over the hill from the farming village of Ambrus in eastern Slovenia.

“They were building bonfires on our land and shouting that if we don’t move out, they will bomb us and crucify our children,” recalls Mr Strojan, 30.

A Slovene filmmaker, Fillip Robar Dorin, present at the scene, said it reminded him of the Kristallnacht pogroms of 1938 when the Nazis rampaged against the Jews of Germany and Austria. “We would have torched the place, but we were too late. The police got there before us,” bragged one Ambrus villager.

If the expulsion of the Strojans, living in Ambrus for decades and owners of the place they were living in for 12 years, was a trauma for the family, it was also an increasingly routine example of the epidemic of forced evictions of Roma settlements across the European Union, particularly in central and eastern Europe where the Roma are concentrated.

Last week in the Czech town of Vsetin police descended on a crumbling block of flats, put more than 100 Roma on lorries and dumped them in Portacabins up to 50 miles away. The mayor, Jiri Cunek, then sent in the bulldozers. “Cleaning an ulcer,” he announced to local applause.

Last month in the eastern Romanian town of Tulcea, police evicted 110 Roma from where they had lived for seven years, their previous accommodation having burned down.

The European Roma Rights Centre in Budapest, Hungary, says the forced evictions are not restricted to eastern Europe. It is also dealing with incidents in Britain, France, Spain and Italy.

The scandal in Ambrus occurred not in the poorest parts of Europe where such persecution is more common, but in Slovenia, the wealthiest, westernmost, and most successful of the eight new central European members. In January, Slovenia will adopt the euro.

“The case of the Strojans in Slovenia is part of a pan-European pattern at the moment,” said Claude Cahn, the centre’s programmes director. “It’s really a crisis this year. This raw destruction of neighbourhoods is quite new.”

As well as frequent forced evictions across the towns and villages of eastern Europe, Mr Cahn points to major slum clearance and urban regeneration schemes currently planned in the capital cities of southern Europe. Istanbul, Sofia in Bulgaria, and Bucharest in Romania all have ambitious reconstruction projects under way. “These can have dreadful effects, entailing the large-scale destruction of Roma housing.”

In a recent study the Dzeno Association, a Prague-based Roma lobby group, noted: “The growing trend of forced evictions of Roma in Europe is becoming a human rights crisis.”

The evictions underline the plight of Europe’s 8 million Roma as the continent’s most downtrodden minority. Subject to entrenched harassment, discrimination, and ghettoisation, the Roma are liberty’s losers in the transformation wrought by recent free elections and free markets.

Last month Bulgaria’s minister of health proposed compulsory abortions and criminalisation for pregnant under-18s from “minority groups”, a categorisation that would affect most Roma girls. In Hungary, a mob beat a 44-year-old Roma man to death after he ran over an 11-year-old girl. A Budapest newspaper told its readers to drive off if they run over a Roma child.

Confronted with this torrent of abuse and prejudice, Europe’s Roma are beginning to fight back. Getting organised politically for the first time, they are engaging in grassroots, national and regional campaigns, in some ways recalling the black civil rights movement in the US, ranging from contesting segregation in schools, tenancy rights, legalisation of settlements to demanding political representation in local councils, national parliaments, and governments.

One trigger for the rise in Roma consciousness and activism is the EU itself. When Romania and Bulgaria expand the union to 27 countries in January, up to 8 million Roma will be EU citizens, the bloc’s biggest ethnic minority and a community that outnumbers the populations of at least eight EU states.

There are now two Roma MPs in the European parliament. Last month a town in Romania got its first Roma mayor and a Roma administration. In Hungary or the Czech Republic there are Roma MPs, occasional government members, scores of local councillors.

The courts are also being used to seek redress. Showing that Roma children are 27 times more likely to be dumped in remedial education classes than ethnic Czechs, Roma activists have taken the government to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg accusing Prague of deliberate segregation in schools. A similar case against Croatia has also gone to the court.

In Slovakia there is a Roma news agency. In Slovenia the Roma are to get airtime on national television. A few years ago there was one Roma councillor in Slovenia, now there are 20.

“Now in Slovenia in almost every municipality, the Roma voice can be heard,” said Zoran Grm, Roma councillor for the town of Novo Mesto.

Jernej Zupancic, a geographer and Roma researcher in the Slovene captal, Ljubljana, said: “The Roma are getting organised … They’re taking more responsibility and becoming much better negotiators.”

Still, it is a long-term process of small steps. “There is growing international Roma activism. A lot of progress. But is it enough to counter the pernicious determination in most places to see the Roma excluded?” asked Mr Cahn.

Outside Ambrus, the geese, chickens, and turkeys are scratching around the Strojans’ hurriedly abandoned homestead. In the forest opposite, sodden mattresses, children’s clothing, and old car batteries still lie under a “tent” of plastic sheeting and tree branches where the family sought refuge from the mob attack, which was apparently triggered following a violent brawl between a local man and a non-Roma man living within the Strojan compound.

In Postojna, at the other end of Slovenia, the Strojans are condemned to the squalour of a disused barracks once used as a refugee centre until it was closed last year as unfit for human habitation. There is neither heating nor hot water. They have been there for a month.

When the mob marched on the Strojans’ house, the government sent in riot police and cabinet ministers. The interior minister announced an “agreement”. The family had volunteered to leave.

“We left because of the pressure from the police and the people. We were afraid,” says Mr Strojan.

Matjaz Hanzek, the parliament-appointed human rights ombudsman, asks: “How can an agreement be voluntary when 500 people are threatening to kill you? The state and the government did what the angry crowd wanted. They moved the people from their home. Such events are inconceivable in a state governed by the rule of law.”

The Strojans tried to go home at the weekend, but did not get far. Another mob, 1,000-strong, set up roadblocks and fought with riot police. The Strojans turned back. At least two other attempts to house them elsewhere in the Ambrus district and in Ljubljana have also foundered because of local protests.

© The Guardian

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EU criticises Czech Rep, Slovakia for segregating Romanies

1 Dicembre 2006 Commenti chiusi

The Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) has criticised the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary for segregating Romanies, primarily in the access to education, the centre says in its annual report released these days.

The report points out that the EU member states have not succeeded in preventing racially motivated incidents and discrimination against minorities in housing, at schools and on the labour market. Anastasia Crickley from the EUMC said that apart from Muslims in Europe and the Jewish community, European Romanies became a target of violent attacks and other forms of racism.

According to a recent analysis on the social deprivation of Romanies, there are over 300 Romany houses and neighbourhoods for the poor where up to 80,000 people live in the 10-million Czech Republic. Most adult inhabitants of such “ghettos” are unemployed and their children often end up in special schools for those with learning disorders and behavioural problems. The EUMC report also says that the education system in the Czech Republic supports the unequal access of Romanies to higher education.

Some Romany organisations have criticised the decision-making of Czech courts in the cases of attacks on Romanies for a long time. A couple of months ago, Romany NGOs protested against the court verdict imposing a suspected sentence on a soldier for having beaten up an elderly Romany. Recently they highlighted the case of a 14-year-old Romany boy who was beaten up and tortured by two policemen who were also given a suspended sentence.

Some NGOs confirm that most Slovaks have a negative stance on Romanies. “Despite the projects of government and civic associations, fundamental improvements [of Romanies´ situation] have not been achieved yet,” Maria Candrakova from the League Against Racism told CTK. Police statistics monitored a couple of racially motivated attacks against Romanies in Slovakia this year. The inhabitants of Korytarky, central Slovakia, for instance, protested against a home for Romany children being built in their village.

On the other hand, some say that Romanies themselves are indifferent about their own fate. “Some Romanies are able to work normally, they have also built nice houses, but a number of them are still passively waiting for state social benefits only,” Anna Bombarova, Mayor of Kecerovce, east Slovakia, told CTK earlier.

The EUMC also says that European countries do not sufficiently monitor the impact of their social and economic policy on minorities. Only two countries, Finland and Britain, register the situation of minorities thoroughly and have provided the EUMC with all necessary data. The EUMC, which was established in 1997 as one of the EU agencies, participates in the preparation of initiatives and measures to suppress racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

© Prague Daily Monitor

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Slovenia, villagers block Roma return to their homes

1 Dicembre 2006 Commenti chiusi

A group of Roma who had been forced to flee their homes in central Slovenia a month ago by local villagers tried to return late Saturday afternoon but were forced to turn back. The group, an extended family of 31 people, tried to return to Ambrus, a village 30 miles southeast of Ljubljana, after four weeks in a refugee center. But about 1,000 villagers and other residents of the area assembled, blocked roads leading to the village and then battled riot police officers.

Officials then persuaded the family, the Strojans, to turn back. The standoff prolonged a crisis that has dominated politics here for a month and has prompted criticism of Slovenia from the Council of Europe, the Continent?s human rights monitor, and from independent rights groups. Despite assertions by the Council of Europe and Slovenia?s human rights ombudsman that the family is entitled to return to their homes, the government has been unwilling to force the issue.

The family, who are Slovene citizens, agreed to leave Ambrus on Oct. 28, after a mob surrounded their homes. Local residents had demanded their removal after a fight between a man from Ambrus and a Slovene who was living with the Strojans, after which the villager fell unconscious. He remains in a coma, and the man with whom he fought is in detention.

The government said it was justified in moving the family to the refugee center, saying that it had acted to protect the Strojans. But human rights groups contend that ministers sanctioned the mob?s ouster of members of a minority group from their homes. The government had promised to resettle the group, but a plan to move them to a suburb of Ljubljana, the capital, foundered when residents there protested.

The fighting Saturday began after the family left an army barrack that had been their home since their expulsion from the village. Residents from Ambrus heard the group was coming and barricaded the roads. The police were called, and three people were injured in the scuffle that followed, witnesses said. The family waited in a roadside parking area during the confrontation and were then persuaded by government mediators to return to the barrack.

Milan Zver, education minister and president of a government commission set up for the protection of the Roma said after the confrontation Saturday that he was disappointed that the Strojans had acted on their own to try to return home, without first consulting the authorities, Reuters reported.

On Friday, Zoran Jankovic, the mayor of Ljubljana, withdrew an offer to find the Strojans homes in Sostro, a suburb of the capital, after inhabitants there staged two days of protests. The Slovene news agency STA quoted Mr. Jankovic as saying, ?We found a good location, took care of security, asked the nearest neighbors and agreed to take the proposal to the borough council, but then somebody got ahead of themselves and informed the locals.?

Prime Minister Janez Jansa has tried to mediate the dispute between the family and residents of Ambrus, which is within his parliamentary constituency. He talked with the Strojans on Saturday, persuading them to return to the army barrack. He denied that they had a right to return to the land, which they own, saying that they had not secured the proper permission from housing authorities to build their homes. The prime minister?s office said Sunday that the Strojans had conceded that they could not return.

© The New York Times

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Slovenia, ostracised Roma still struggle across Balkans

1 Dicembre 2006 Commenti chiusi

Elka Strojan and her 30-strong Roma family, forced to swap a house for three rooms in a former army barracks, highlight the precarious existence in the Balkans of Europe’s largest minority. “It’s really bad here. This is not ours, this is for refugees and we are not refugees.

We are Slovenian citizens with all the documents,” the 55-year-old told Reuters in broken Slovenian, sitting on an old bed with two small dogs surrounded by a dozen of her grandchildren. The Strojans, including Elka’s four sons and their families, were asked by the government in late October to leave their house near Ambrus in central Slovenia after angry villagers threatened to expel them by force.

The Council of Europe criticised European Union member Slovenia for the move, but villagers said they had had enough of the Roma’s misdemeanours, ranging from petty theft to serious fights. “Some 600 of us gathered near their house. We wanted to burn and destroy everything but we came too late, the police were already deployed,” said Joze Lindic, a pensioner. “We’ve had nothing but trouble with them in the past 20 years and we just cannot put up with it any more. Let the state or the European Union take care of them. We don’t want them here, ever again,” he said, sipping a beer at a cafe. The government has vowed to provide alternative permanent housing for the Strojans, but that announcement immediately roused protest from residents in potential new resettlements.

A recent report by human rights group Amnesty International on the Roma in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia said they still live in extreme poverty and their children regularly face discrimination in schools. “The barriers Romani children face in accessing education deprive them of the chance of fulfilling the true potential and perpetuate the marginalisation of Romani communities,” it said. Only two of the Strojans’ dozen children went to school while they lived in Ambrus.

Access to education is even worse for Roma in Serbia, home to an estimated 500,000 Romas. According to the 1991 census, 34.8 percent of Roma in Serbia are illiterate and just 20 percent have completed obligatory elementary education. Those who enrol children in primary schools often do so to qualify for state welfare. “The society as a whole expresses no interest for their problems and needs,” said a report by the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF. “This could be caused by general indifference, intolerance and dominant stereotypes on the Roma caused by poor knowledge of Roma history, culture and tradition,” it said.

In Croatia, which hopes to join the EU by 2010, residents of the prosperous Medjimurje region, which has the largest Roma community, complained against mixed Roma and Croat classes in 2002. The Croatians said the Romani parents were “frequently alcoholics, their children are prone to stealing, cursing and fighting”, often with poor knowledge of Croatian. The Roma struck back by filing a complaint against segregation with the European Court of Human Rights. The case is still pending.

The situation is little different in Bulgaria and Romania, both due to join the EU next January. Government data puts the Roma population in Romania at about 535,000, but an estimate from the Minority Rights Group goes as high as 2.5 million, which would make it the largest Roma population in Europe. Roma rights organisations accuse authorities of continued discrimination, a claim backed by many Western observers. Bulgaria has also been criticised by the European Commission for doing too little to integrate the Roma, who live on the fringes of society, often in shanty towns lacking running water and electricity. Good education and permanent employment are rare.

A recent survey by Bulgaria’s anti-discrimination commission showed ethnic tensions have risen as a result of Roma’s perceptions of discrimination. “The basis for perception of discrimination lies in the huge gap in the living standards, as well as in the mistrust demonstrated by other ethnic groups against the Roma,” the survey said.

Mirko Strojan, one of the four men in the Slovenian Roma family, said the family now planned to take legal measures. “Something like this, that our neighbours want to take the law into their own hands, has never happened before. We are going to sue the village, to make them pay for the damages, shame and fear,” he said. (Additional reporting by Ljilja Cvekic in Belgrade, Tsvetelia Ilieva in Sofia and Marius Zaharia and Justyna Pawlak in Bucharest)

© Reuters

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