Anti-Roma protests in Croatia, Slovenia, Spain
02 April 1998
The Zagreb-based human rights organisation Centre for the Direct Protection of Human Rights reported that inhabitants of the village of Lomnica in the Velika Gorica municipality of Croatia held a demonstration on October 26 in a local community centre to protest the presence of Roma in their village. The rally was organised by the Velika Gorica branch of the Croatian Veterans of the Homeland War (HVIDRA). Approximately eighty people attended the rally, including the mayor of Velika Gorica.
The disgruntled villagers reportedly complained that the Roma pollute local aquifers, pitch tents in a local canal during summer, have damaged the road from Lomnica to Lukavac, drive unregistered vehicles, let their cattle and horses move around and feed on other people’s property, and assault the non-Romani population. One of those present, a veteran of the Yugoslav war stated, „The veterans of the Homeland War are not used to living with Gypsies, so they will not live with us either.” It was generally agreed that Croatia must enter Europe, and that this would not be possible while Roma continue to inhabit the country. Individuals at the rally also expressed the sentiment that Croatia is no longer Yugoslavia, and that Roma should therefore „go back over the Drina river” (ie. to Serbia or Macedonia). A sign outside the community centre proclaimed (in English) „Gypsies go home!” The citizens told the mayor that he should take action because „something really dangerous could happen”. The mayor urged the villagers gathered to solve the problems by non-violent means, and suggested that, with his help, they should write a letter to Parliament.
Similar events have recently taken place in Slovenia. According to articles appearing in the Slovene press, relations between Roma and non-Roma deteriorated considerably in autumn due to vocal racist opposition by non-Roma to a series of local government decisions aimed at the integration of Roma. In one incident, non-Roma in the town of Malina prevented a Romani family from moving into a house in the village, in acts described by locals as „defending their territory”. In a similar event, attempts by local authorities to legalise two of five local Roma settlements met with open protest, with local non-Roma bearing signs with slogans such as, „Roma get rights, workers get taxes!” The settlements concerned presently lack running water and electricity. One area mayor, Mr Jože Tanko, told the Slovene daily Večer that although there are many locations where possibilities exist for proper housing for Roma, all efforts have been blocked because local authorities do not want to fight „the will of the people”. Local Roma reportedly now fear recrimination if they attempt to claim housing which has been legitimately allocated to them.
Roma National Congress reported on January 12 that similar demonstrations had taken place in the town of Alcalá del Rio near Seville in southern Spain.
(Centre for the Direct Protection of Human Rights, Roma National Congress, Večer)