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August 17, 2018
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In Prague and other European cities, Romani people and their allies to protest recent violence against Roma in Ukraine

27.7.2018 9:41
Civil society members of the Czech Government Council on Romani Minority Affairs left a session of the Council in protest on 19 June 2018 to protest the current Government's social policy. (PHOTO:  ROMEA TV)
Civil society members of the Czech Government Council on Romani Minority Affairs left a session of the Council in protest on 19 June 2018 to protest the current Government's social policy. (PHOTO: ROMEA TV)

On Tuesday 31 July at 16:00 a march to support Romani people in Ukraine will take place in Prague as part of a bigger protest being held in 10 European countries. The first in the series of demonstrations begins tomorrow in Bucharest, Romania, while other events referencing the current violence will also mark Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, 2 August, in Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain and the UK, while 6 August will see events in Hungary and Macedonia.

Romani people throughout Europe want to demonstrate that they can no longer tolerate their discrimination, their needs being overlooked, and the sometimes racist approach taken by politicians and states toward them. The Prague march will begin with speeches at 16:00 on Letenská pláň in the vicinity of the Sparta tram stop.

Protesters will march to the Embassy of Ukraine and, after making other speeches there, will return to Letenská pláň, where the protest will end. "In recent weeks, several pogroms against Romani people have been committed in Ukraine which resulted in fatalities," said Michal Miko, the director of the RomanoNet organization, which brings together several important pro-Romani and Romani organizations in the Czech Republic and is convening the protest.

"A nursery school was also recently burned down that was attended by Romani children. This violence cannot be tolerated any longer and it is necessary to speak out loudly and support the Roma in Ukraine," Miko said.

The RomanoNet director said the demonstration is also meant to remind people about the situation in Italy, where the Interior Minister and leader of the ultra-right Lega group, Matteo Salvini, is demanding a "head count" of Romani people and the deportation of those not from Italy. "All these events are warnings of how dangerous hatred and xenophobia are," Miko said.

"We are fighting for a better society, for justice and respect towards all, irrespective of origin or social position," Miko said, adding that a protest letter will also be delivered to the Italian Embassy in Prague on Monday. Organizers say Tuesday's demonstration is also meant to protest against discrimination, racism, and the poor social position of Romani people that results from those phenomena in countries across Europe.

"Since the 1990s, the Czech Government has never seriously addressed the position of Romani people in this society, or the socially excluded localities, or the discrimination and the racism. The proposed measures and those already realized are, in our view, ineffective, they unnecessarily burden the state budget, and they sometimes even spark hatred against Romani people," said Martina Horváthová, who among other roles is the Vice-Chair of the Czech Government Council on Romani Minority Affairs.

"This has to change," Horváthová said. "Provisions like the so-called 'measures of a general nature' in the current law on aid to those in material distress, or introducing vouchers instead of cash across the board when disbursing material aid benefits - such moves do not solve these problems, they intensify them."

"We would like to communicate that to the Prime Minister, whom I have asked for a personal meeting," Horváthová said. The international protest will happen in nine European countries - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Spain - and is also meant to commemorate the atrocities committed during the Second World War.

Romani people all over Europe mark Roma Holocaust Memorial Day on 2 August. This year marks the sad 74th anniversary of the destruction of the so-called "Gypsy Family Camp" at Auschwitz when, on 2 and 3 August 1944, 2 898 Romani children, men and women were murdered in the gas chambers there.

RomanoNet brings together the following pro-Roma and Roma nonprofits who have many successful activities and projects behind them in the Czech Republic:  Romodrom, o.p.s., Slovo 21, z.s., Romano jasnica, z.s., ROMEA, o.p.s., z.s. Kleja, Jekhetane Společeně, IQ Roma servis and Otevřená společnost. The umbrella organization plans to provide expertise to partners on addressing inter-ethnic coexistence between non-Roma and Romani people in the Czech Republic and to serve as a platform for advocacy and for negotiating changes to integration policies and improvements to the targeting of public tenders financing projects aiming to integrate Romani people and socially disadvantaged persons.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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