Anti-Romani Action in Slovakia
07 July 2004
"I do not agree with the construction of flats for citizens of Gypsy ethnicity within the town boundaries of Dobšiná as there is a danger of increased immigration of non-adaptable citizens of Gypsy ethnicity from the surrounding villages and even other regions into the territory of Dobšiná."
This is the text of a petition circulated during the first half of July 2002, for signature in the town of Dobšiná in northern Slovakia, reportedly circulated by the Real Slovak National Party (PSNS), Slovakia's extreme right party, according to ERRC field research, conducted in co-operation with the Slovak Roma Press Agency (SRPA). The petition was circulated following the adoption of a resolution by the Dobšiná Town Council on March 20, 2002, which approved the construction of low-cost housing. The town council subsequently advised the Mayor, Mr Jan Vozar, to secure financing from the national government for the project. According to a statement of Mr Vozar, the new flats would create a Romani neighbourhood. Mr Peter Pamula, chairman of the local PSNS branch, stated to the ERRC/SRPA, "We need to abolish the bylaw of the town council about the construction of the flats." As of July 19, 2002, approximately 2,100 of the town's 5,000 inhabitants had reportedly signed the petition, including Roma. Mr Marian Holmok, a local Romani man, testified to the ERRC/SPRA that non-Roma from the town came to the Roma and put pressure on them to sign the petition. ERRC/SPRA field investigation showed that Roma in Dobšiná live under deplorable circumstances, in thatched huts made of cardboard, with no source of water aside from a nearby stream of dirty water. Romani children in the area reportedly have stomach problems and skin disease, and the Romani part of town reportedly fills with mud when it rains.
Roma in Dobšiná reported to the ERRC/SPRA that, since the petition had been circulated, relations with local non-Roma have worsened. Ms Eva Gaiová, a Romani woman stated that, "a woman in the street shouted at our children that we are Roma and we should get lost; in the morning I was told that as immigrants from Poprad, we have no right to be in Dobšiná and I was advised to leave. […] During the night, some skinheads kicked in the gate of my neighbour. I heard it and was very afraid."
On August 30, 2002, the Bratislava-based non-governmental organisation League of Human Rights Advocates (LHRA) took up legal representation in the case. According to the LHRA, on July 30, 2002, the Dobšiná Town Council considered the petition and unanimously voted to cancel the March 20, 2002, resolution, ending the housing scheme.
In other news, ERRC/SPRA research revealed that Romani women in Slovakia are segregated in hospitals in Slovakia. Ms B.B., an 18-year-old Romani woman in her 7th month of pregnancy, testified to the ERRC/SPRA that Roma "are placed in rooms according to our ethnic background." Ms B.B., who was reportedly admitted to Room No. 61 at the Karlovský˝ Chlmec Hospital for treatment, informed the ERRC/SPRA that, doctors in the hospital came to Ms B.B.'s room for only one or two minutes and did not wait for a response when asking how the Romani patients were before leaving, while the doctors spoke individually with non-Romani women in the hospital. According to Ms T.R., a Romani woman, after giving birth in the same hospital, she reportedly woke up in an all-Romani room. Ms T.R. further informed the ERRC/SPRA that, in the hospital dining room, she was assigned a seat with Romani women, away from non-Romani women in the hospital. Ms T.R. reportedly refused to eat in the dining room after this incident. The ERRC/SPRA spoke with Dr Michal Patáky, head of the Gynaecology and Obstetrics Department at the Karlovský˝ Chlmec Hospital, about the segregation of Romani women in the hospital. Dr Patáky testified that "The Roma population in this part of the country is predominantly primitive and relatively uneducated." He further informed the ERRC/SPRA that patients had been assigned to Room No. 61 for more than twenty years "based on their social background".
Anti-Romani action was also reported during the recent general elections in Slovakia. On September 4, 2002, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) quoted Mr Alexander Patkolo, chairman of the Romany Initiative of Slovakia, as having stated that electoral rallies and discussion forums by the parties Smer and the Real Slovak National Party were are used as a medium for promoting racial hatred and intolerance.
(ERRC, League of Human Rights Advocates, RFE/RL, SITA, SPRA, TASR)