The deaths of two small Romani children on January 1 and January 3 in Košice’s Luník IX and the Mašličkovo settlement in Slovakia went largely unremarked and unreported in the European media. One child froze to death, the other died in a fire. This last weekend has just brought shocking news of three more child fatalities in another fire in a shack in Slovakia.
The right to adequate housing is a fundamental right and a crucial prerequisite for a decent life and personal development. The record of Slovak authorities on providing adequate housing for its citizens is dismal and Roma are disproportionately affected by this failure.
As I grew up in a mixed community in Subotic in Kosovo I was aware from an early age that our Roma neighbors were discriminated against just because they were Roma. In some cases our Roma neighbors were better educated than the non-Roma but that did nothing to change the negative perceptions of the majority.
Despite some glimmers of hope and signs of progress, two reports published by the Council of Europe last Tuesday (October 13), paint a broader and quite frankly dismaying picture of persistent segregation of Roma in schools and housing, worrying levels of anti-Roma hate speech and hate crime, numerous reports of police brutality, and a general climate of intolerance among majority populations towards Roma in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) following a meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico on Friday 9th October, await further clarification before they decide whether or not to suspend Fico’s party (SMER) following his stance on the Syrian refugee crisis. The President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella said that Fico’s position was an embarrassment to the “whole Progressive family."