Courage and Unity Against Racism. Letter to Roma Organisations World-wide
Dear brothers and sisters,
A more aggressive and cruel forms of racism, unseen since the Second World War, are again witnessed in Europe today. In many Member States of the EU, racists declarations go unpunished, gaining more influence and support each time. Political parties of extreme right occupy more positions of power. Democratic governments proclaim without shame the “delinquency and criminality” of Roma.
The current economic situation is affecting virtually the entire Europe, causing serious social and economic consequences to the European citizens. The Roma not only suffer from these consequences but also, as its indirect repercussion, is undergoing a new wave of savage racism that is causing cruel and violent attacks against the Roma people in Italy, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, United Kingdom and now also in France. This situation is nothing new in the long history of our people.
We have believed that the period of violent persecutions of the Roma in Europe is now part of the past, considering the institutional and governmental implications of European countries. And now, in the middle of the Decade for Roma Inclusion (2005-2015), it turns out that we were wrong. Persecutions on behalf of European, democratic governments came with a stronger wave that we could have expected.
The European Union is founded on values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and respect for human rights, including rights of persons belonging to minorities (Treaty on European Union art. 2), values that some Member states, in our opinion, are clearly violating.
The history of the Roma people is filled with episodes of racist and xenophobic acts. The genocidal persecution of the Roma has been a practice continued throughout the ages, and in fact, has never entirely ceased. The attempt to exterminate the Roma people was one of the primary objectives of the Nazi regime.
Cases of deportation of Roma, undergone by the French government are a reminiscent of those terrible years. In the opinion of a senior UN official, a member of the Committee that oversees the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, “some of the measures on Roma were reminiscent of the period of France’s Vichy government, which collaborated with the German Nazi occupiers in World War II." This view is increasingly common and shared, also by the Roma.
Brothers and sisters, in the face of these circumstances, every time more commonly observed, we, as members of the Roma community and representatives of Romani organizations, should ask ourselves, whether our role has been appropriate and effective.
The certainty that the raids will continue, should make us reflect on the need for common strategies, joint actions, quick and efficient communication, common positions and unified responses, and above all, mechanisms of pressure and lobbying in the defense of our people.
Our greatest strength is in unity. We are approximately twelve million Roma in Europe, the largest minority on the continent. We do not have our own state, with all the implication that it entails. Many of us feel proud of being Roma and also feel proud of being citizens of our home-countries. But let us have no illusions - no state will move a finger for our people, if it might imply some sort of problems with another state. This is why we can count only on our own mobilization and auto-organization.
Brothers and sisters, until when will we maintain inert allowing all these insults, injuries, cruelty, aggressions and even murders?
Are we really doing all that is possible and is in our power? Do we undertake adequate actions? I assume that the answer is NO. We in Catalonia believe that the Roma organizations and entities should commence a serious, rigorous and comprehensive debate, with a goal as urgent as it is necessary: to achieve unity of action.
With this letter we would like to give an impulse to this debate.
Sastiepen thaj Mestipen!
José Santos Silva,
President of the Federation of Roma Associations in Catalonia (FAGiC), Spain
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