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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., failed police offer of Roma integration

16 Febbraio 2007 Commenti chiusi


In the North-western town of Most in the Czech Republic, a recent 11 million crown EU-funded initatiative has failed to incorporate Roma into the police force. The goal behind the program was to train Roma to become uniformed police officers, increase the chance of finding jobs, and produce higher intergration within society for people who have difficutly in the labor market.

In Most seven Roma applied for the positions, however they recently failed to meet the requirements to be re-qulaifed at the educational institute Polis in Pribram in central Bohemia. This low applicant turn-out could be illustrated by the statement of many Roma as quoted in Pravo Daily: ?I wouldn?t do it. Our people would regard me as a renegade and officers would regrard me just as a Gypsy. I wouldn?t be white nor black. I will would rather be unemployed.?

Some of them couldn?t even read or write
Competence for admittance into the program was based on a clean criminal record and education commensurate with the job. Lubos Trojna from the Most municipal police says that ?some of them couldn?t even read or write in the Czech language.?

Although the police did not require a high school graduation for the Roma applicants as they do for the non-Roma, it did not take into consideration that Czech language levels would be lower due to primary school education and particularly due to the socio-linguistic background of Roma.

Mr Trojna?s statement highlights a social problem in the Czech Republic in regard to why this project failed on the education levels. A large number of Roma are sent to special schools, which are designed for cognitively disabled children, at a very young age.

The chance to continue from a special school to a high school is very difficult and extremely rare. Because of this education, many Roma do not have the opportunity to find qualified employment. Consequently, many Roma are excluded from social and economic mobility within Czech society. Resulting from social exclusion from Czech society, some Roma are only in contact with broken Czech of their Romany elders as well as non-schooled forms of colloquial spoken Czech.

The quality of the Czech language of Roma is not only dependent on the level of social involvement and interaction but also on the educational system. This education and linguistic background has not been discussed within the Czech media.

Successful co-operation
However, we must also look at the failure of these tests not as a problem of Roma but as an individual problem. In other towns in the Czech Republic, police forces have successfully integrated Roma into their ranks. Czech Television mentioned that in nearby Usti nad Labem, there are 10 Romany police officers.

The police department in Usti has praised the collaboration with Romany officers for their knowledge of Roma cultural and societal background. Last year, the municiplaity of Brno implemented the project of police assitantships which is a step in higher levels of Roma intergration modelled on the same program in Ostrava.

The assitantships differ from a uniformed officer in that assitansships act more as social fieldworkers who inform Roma to know their legal possibilities. Additionally, they help the police learn more about the Roma culture.

© Dzeno Association

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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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