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ERRC Calls for Action Over the Abuse of Romani Children by England Fans in Lille

22 June 2016

Budapest, 22 June 2016: Today the European Roma Rights Centre issued letters to footballing authorities calling for their urgent and decisive response regarding the demeaning actions of a group of England fans towards Romani children in Lille.

According to the information compiled by various sources, four Romani children were publically humiliated on the street by English football fans in Lille. The English football supporters threw coins and bottles on the ground, mocking and humiliating the Romani children collecting them. Footage even shows some fans encouraging the children to fight amongst themselves to collect the coins. Reports also emerged of fans making children drink pints of beer in return for small change. The police officers standing not far from the scene of the incident took no measures to protect the children from abuse and maltreatment.

We have called on UEFA and the English FA to take steps to investigate this incident, find those responsible, and explain to us what disciplinary and preventative measures they will take to ensure the events witnesses in Lille do not happen again.

Amongst the scenes of violence and destruction which have at times overshadowed these Euro 2016 Championships, an isolated incident of racism may fall by the wayside in terms of media attention and public outrage. Yet this is not even the first incident of racist and harassment involving football fans and Roma this year. On the 17th March, a Sparta Prague fan was filmed urinating on a female Romani beggar in Rome. Two days earlier on the 15th March, PSV Eindhoven fans were filmed taunting female Roma beggars in Madrid's Plaza Mayor and asking them to get down on their knees in exchange for money. In this case, the management of the Dutch team responded promptly to a letter sent by the ERRC and punished the offenders with stadium bans of between 12 and 36 months. UEFA reacted to this incident with assurances of their commitment to tackling anti-social and racist behaviour in the coming Euro 16 Championships.

In light of this strikingly similar act involving Roma in Lille during the Euro 16 Championships, the ERRC call for a statement detailing UEFA and the Football Association’s intended actions to counter racist and abusive behavior by visiting and home supporters at the Championships and beyond. We reiterate that UEFA’s comprehensive anti-discrimination policy includes education and campaigning, but also sanctions among other measures.

In the interests of the Roma victims, of football and of the spirit in which these European Championships were founded, we call on UEFA, the Football Association and the British Department for Culture, Media and Sport to publicly condemn this demeaning act of racism and intolerance against Romani children, to penalize the offenders with appropriate sanctions, and, where necessary, to liaise with the local police in identifying and prosecuting those involved with these humiliating acts.

The full letter containing our call to action statement can be read here.

For more information contact:

Jonathan Lee
Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre
jonathan.lee@errc.org

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