European Roma and Travellers Forum: Roma Rights at a Crossroads
On the occasion of International Roma Day, 8 April, the European Roma and Travellers Forum, a French-registered association intended to serve as a forum representing Roma communities from all of the Council of Europe's 47 member countries, has issued the following press release. News server Romea.cz is publishing it here in full:
Roma Day is the occasion for all Roma from all over the world to remember the troubled history of our people. It is also the opportunity to reflect on what needs to be done to preserve our identity, our culture and, most of all, our language.
It is however, also on this day that we recall the constant rejection of the Roma in all countries and in all walks of life. The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) express its strong solidarity with all those Roma who still experience extreme poverty, miserable conditions, fear and discrimination in their daily lives.
Current conditions are an affront to human dignity everywhere. Roma continue to face wide-ranging discrimination in access to education, employment, housing, and healthcare.
In recent years the global economic crisis, the threat of terrorism, and the fear for global security has slowed down progress in addressing these challenges, creating a harsh atmosphere that is endangering European democratic practices and humanity and has led to an increase of antigypsyism, often expressed through violent attacks on Roma communities. The eviction of Roma, be they local citizens or migrants, sedentary or nomadic, from Western, Central or Eastern Europe is always animated by the same spirit of rejection.
The intention on the part of the authorities is to physically alienate the Roma from the majority population. This has become a standard procedure when local mayors, pushed by local populations, feel they no longer want the Roma around – and it is all done with impunity.
We cannot ignore these deeply troubling developments. No country can meet 21st century challenges with a large segment of its population discriminated, intimidated and excluded.
Europe seems to have forgotten the central lesson of the past century: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The ERTF calls upon all Council of Europe and European Union Member States to honour their legally and politically binding obligations and commitments to secure equal opportunities and support for the Roma community.
We encourage all states which have not yet done so to ratify all these legally and politically binding documents as soon as possible and to resist the appeal of antigypsyist ideas and policies. Furthermore the ERTF also calls upon European leaders to defend the values of civilization, solidarity and the basic human rights of everyone regardless of their ethnicity, religion, language etc.
There are enormous challenges ahead in the quest for equal opportunities for all - from achieving more effective coordination and mobilisation of resources at the international level to building better capacity at the national and local levels. All of us can play a part in raising awareness of these challenges; all of us can play our part in overcoming them.
We call on all the Roma to express openly their pride in being Roma, pride in their culture, their language and in their traditions; to stand up fearlessly against marginalisation and humiliation and claim loudly their right to be treated as equal citizens in the country they live in. Centuries of persecution, enslavement and genocide should strengthen our determination to stand up to the constant molestations, vilification and denial of basic human rights to which we are subjected in all countries throughout the world.
We should not succumb to fatalism. We should not accept being third-rate citizens.
We should not be afraid of declaring ourselves Roma. It is the time for us to stand together, proud of our heritage, and shout out: "Dosta! That’s enough!"
Let us, both Roma and non-Roma, make this a special day of reparation, forgiveness and fraternity.
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