Slovak MEP Peter Pollák draws attention to unequal treatment of Romani Ukrainian refugees on the floor of the EP
Last week Slovak MEP Peter Pollák made a statement on the floor of the European Parliament (EP) expressing his concern about the information that refugees of Romani nationality who are fleeing Ukraine are not being treated as well as non-Romani refugees. "The suffering of the Romani women and children fleeing Putin's tanks in fear is compounded by the unequal treatment they are subjected to, not just in Ukraine itself, but according to my information also after they enter the European Union," he said.
Pollák also recalled the increasing racism in Europe, which he has long been pointing out is underway. "Romani people from Ukraine are refugees just like all other Ukrainians. Putin is taking away the safety, the homes, and unfortunately the lives of their loved ones from everybody in Ukraine. Esteemed friends, the life of each person fleeing a war is of the same value," he said.
The cases of unequal treatment of Romani Ukrainian refugees have appeared in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova and Slovakia. The situation at the Slovak-Ukrainian border was described at the beginning of March by Jaroslav Miko to ROMEA TV: "Romani people from Ukraine are being discriminated against at the border. There are many volunteers who are giving refugees rides further into the interior. However, if a Romani family arrives and asks for such aid, they are refused it."
News server Romea.cz reported the story of two Romani women with four children who were asked to move on from their accommodation in the Czech Republic twice for no reason; of Czech bus drivers who refused to transport to safety a group of Romani mothers originally from the Kyiv area; and other cases of volunteers not wanting to give rides to Romani families. One of the most recent cases involved the hostile reception of Romani refugees who were assaulted in the village of Božičany, Czech Republic.
After speaking at the EP, Pollák published a video to his Facebook profile in which he responds to the input he is receiving from his fellow Romani community members and constituents alleging, for example, that the Romani Ukrainians are not fleeing the Russian invasion, but that they are fleeing "fascists" who are Ukrainian. The MEP appeals in his video for aid to all refugees who are doing their best to escape Putin's attack on Ukraine and to find safety; news server Romea.cz is publishing the full translation of the transcript of that video here.
Peter Pollák: Differences of opinion are never resolved through violence and war
Recently I have been receiving many messages from you all asking whether it is even necessary to aid the refugees from Ukraine. I understand many of you have anxieties and problems that were long unresolved, truth by told, by [former Prime Minister] Robert Fico. I understand your impatience and that you would like to see change happen overnight. I, too, would like it to be immediate. However, I am not a magician - believe me, though, when I tell you that recently in many settlements where the mayors have applied for subsidies, they have been building or soon will build you roads, waterworks, nursery schools or apartments, everything Robert Fico ignored for 12 years.
We have to aid the Ukrainians fleeing Putin's rockets and tanks, though. They have lost absolutely everything. They have lost their homes, and unfortunately many of them have also lost their loved ones. If your opinion is different, if you don't want to assist them, I can't do anything about that. However, please respect my opinion. I will be helping them.
I am also getting messages from you about Romani people fleeing Ukraine because there are fascists there, not that they are fleeing the Russian invasion. Yes, as I have said many times before, racism and fascism are on the rise in many countries. We also have racists and fascists here at home in Slovakia. You are right that they also exist there in Ukraine, just as they also exist in Russia, the Czech Republic, or Hungary. The simple truth is that the fascists are everywhere. They're even seated in Parliament here in Slovakia.
I have also received your messages about racist treatment in Ukraine. I condemn that. I have never defended any fascists, just as I do not defend racists and fascists in Slovakia. I fight against racists and fascists whatever country they are from. I have met in person with many of the Romani refugees from Ukraine, and when I asked them what it was they were escaping, they all told me that they were fleeing Putin's tanks and rockets. Yes, you are right, there are also fascists among the Ukrainians, just as they are among us here in Slovakia. Let's not forget, though, that many Romani people are standing in Ukraine with machine guns in their hands against Putin's rockets and tanks. Romani people, just like the Jewish people, have our experience of history from the Second World War, when the countries where the fascists ruled drove us all into the concentration camps and killed us.
There is nobody in this world who has the right to decide who lives and who does not have the right to live. No nation is inferior to any other nation. The Ukrainians have the right to live. You can have as different opinions as are possible about this world, but we cannot resolve our differences, under any circumstances, through violence, and not at all through war. None of you would like it if, just because your opinion about the world is different, you were to lose your home, or God forbid, your children - and merely because your neighbor believes might makes right.
In conclusion, esteemed friends, allow me to repeat the words of Jesus Christ: "Whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you do unto me." Let's not turn our backs on the victims of this war, today we have a unique opportunity to show our humanity, our aid, to save a life, to do a good deed.
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