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Roma conference decries government-led discrimination

Helsinki, 16.9.2010 10:16, (Helsinki Times)

Over the centuries, racism in the Americas has targeted indigenous peoples, African slaves and their descendants, while in Europe, secular racism has long centred on its once-enslaved gypsies, as their recent persecution in France and Italy confirms.

ANTHROPOLOGIST José Pereira Bastos, professor at the New University of Lisbon, stated during the conference Gypsies in the 21st Century, held in the Portuguese capital 8-10 September, that the focus of secular racism in Europe has been on the gypsy population for a long time. The conference drew organisations from around the world that work to defend the rights of the peoples known as Romani, Roma, or Roms, depending on the dialect.

The participants in this annual meeting of the Gypsy Lore Society (GLS) underscored in a resolution that the anthropological society is alarmed by the anti-Roma rhetoric of authorities from France and Italy. Bastos said that they expressed “strong concern over the policy of expulsions, which could lead to serious consequences for community relations between Europe’s majorities and the vulnerable Roma minority.”

The French government of Nicolas Sarkozy enacted a plan in August of forced removal and destruction of Roma encampments, with mass expulsions to Bulgaria, Romania and other countries. A similar offensive has been carried out by the government of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy since 2008 – the difference being that the Italian leader did not make public his “security package” under which thousands of Roma have been expelled.

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