Fortnightly Roma news review: October 1-14

By Bernard Rorke

The good news for the first two weeks of October was an ERRC victory in a Macedonian court over the rights of Roma to leave their own country. One of the successful litigants, Seanad Asan said “The day when I found out about our travel ban, I felt like a stranger in the country where I was born. This would not have happened to me if I was not Roma.” Let’s hope this victory makes Seanad feel more secure, and dissuades any further ethnic profiling on the border. For a review of what else cropped up in the media in the last fortnight, read on and follow the hyperlinks below.

October 1. The Prague Monitor reported that Cenek Ruzicka, head of the Czech committee for compensation of the Roma Holocaust, received the Artis Bohemiae Amicis prize for his efforts to remove a pig farm from the former wartime Lety forced labour camp for Roma in south Bohemia from Culture Minister Daniel Herman.

October 1. During the decades of transportation between England and Australia about 60 convicts were Roma. Among them was James Squire, who arrived on the First Fleet in 1788 and went on to become the colony’s first brewer. Another interesting fact is that today, the approximately 14,000 Roma who live in Western Australia, mainly originate from Macedonia. For more background on Roma ‘down under’ read Mandy Sawyer author of Australian Gypsies: Their Secret History (NewSouth), which came out on the second of October.

October 2. Police dismiss two criminal reports filed by ROMEA involving racist Facebook comments as unproblematic from a criminal law perspective. The first read: "I have decided to take justice into my own hands before I die. Yes, it will be two little Romani children." The second:  "Repulsive, useless black filth, aggressive from the time they're young... Let's be racists, we really do not need this!!!!"

October 4. Studies show suicide rates among the Traveller community are six times higher than in the settled population, accounting for at least 11pc of all deaths in Ireland. The shame and stigma of admitting a mental health problem is driving members of the travelling community to suicide.

October 5. Hungary’s supreme court upheld a ruling to abolish school segregation in the town of Kaposvár. Chance For Children Foundation lawyer, Adél Kegye, described the Curia’s ruling as unique in the whole of Europe because it is the first such ruling in the continent that orders the complex desegregation of a school. 

October 6. The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KhPG) reported that an Odesa court has reinstated the criminal proceedings initiated over police failure to protect Roma during last year’s pogrom in Loshchynivka, Ukraine.

October 9. YouGov/Traveller Times survey of UK parents lays bare the shocking level of prejudice still facing Gypsy and Traveller people in Great Britain. Only four out of ten parents would be happy for their child go to the home of a child who is a Gypsy/Traveller for a play date and over one in four adults said they would be unhappy with a close relative having a long-term relationship with a Gypsy/Traveller.

October 10. The UK Department for Education is to launch an external review into the links between pupil ethnicity and exclusions, focusing on “disproportionate” exclusion rates among some ethnic groups. Pupils from Irish traveller or Roma/gypsy backgrounds have the highest rate of exclusions of any ethnic group, at 0.49 per cent and 0.33 per cent respectively.

October 10. On this day in 1944, 800 Romani children, including more than a hundred boys between 9 and 14-years-old were systematically murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz.

October 11. Head of Czech online portal ROMEA discusses antigypsyism: “I'm not Romani, but my girlfriend is, and we have two children together. … My girlfriend is a trained nurse, she works in that field, and her experience is that people spit on her when she takes the metro. We also had a problem with finding an apartment. Sometimes these things happen to us. In addition, people have threatened to kill my children, but the Czech Police were unable to apprehend the people who made those threats, so they shelved my complaint.”

October 11. The last acceptable form of racism? British Labour MP John Speller stated in Parliament: “Does my honourable friend accept that the public view of the community will continue to be shaped by the appalling behaviour of the minority, who bring absolute chaos to their own communities.” Cassie Marie MacDonagh writes in the Guardian, that “the discrimination I suffered at school shows no sign of dying out.”

October 11. Budapest: Hungarian State Railways scupper plans by Roma activists to place a plaque commemorating Roma leader Béla Puczi. In Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureș), a Romanian city in Transylvania, Puczi heroically led an armed group of Roma to protect ethnic Hungarians and repel a far-right Romanian mob, preventing deaths and injury, back in 1991

October 12. A Romani family escaped unhurt following shocking machine-gun attack on their family home in the Slovak town of Pohronská Polhora.  Police officers have already arrested suspects for the drive-by shooting.

October 12. A Czech Internet parody about Roma getting free butter shared by more than 3,000 gullible people, sparks hateful threats against the Czech Government and Romani people.

October 14. Check out ROMEA’s interview with David Tišer, LGBT and Roma rights activist who is running in 13th place on the Prague list of the Green Party in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

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