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EU values at risk over treatment of migrants and Roma

29 Maggio 2007

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.

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