AEDH: Europe-wide discrimination against Romani people is rooted in history
Representatives of the European Association for the Defense of Human Rights (Association Européenne pour la défense des Droits de l’Homme - AEDH) believe that discrimination and violence against Romani people are prevalent across all the countries of Europe. Tensions are rising in relation to the economic crisis, which is causing a decline in tolerance. Members of the AEDH met this past weekend in Brno with representatives of the Czech Helsinki Committee (Český helsinský výbor - ČHV).
Representatives of both organizations met in Brno for the general assembly of the association, which is comprised of 23 member organizations from 19 EU countries. That event was linked to a seminar on the topic of Romani people in Europe.
Anna Šabatová of ČHV said many prejudices about Romani people still predominate European views of them. "Romani people want to work and contribute to a united coexistence with others, but they are not given the opportunity," she said, adding that often the ideas people hold about members of this minority are reproduced from old, historical notions. "Many non-Romani people who then go on to actually meet with Romani people learn that the situation is different. Our notions are greatly influenced by hearsay, by indirect evidence. It is very difficult for Romani people to find work, and one of the typical prejudices is that Romani people don't want to work," Šabatová said.
Šabatová did not want to compare the state of the Romani minority in the Czech Republic to that of other countries today. "I was shocked by the situation on the outskirts of Italian cities. Some acts of violence [targeting Roma], for example in Hungary, are even worse than what we have experienced here in the past," she said. Šabatová also criticized conditions in France, which in the past has deported Romani people who are citizens of Bulgaria and Romania. "No country is free of this violence," noted the French representative to AEDH, Pierre Barge. Šabatová also said that some Western European countries treat Romani people as if they were not citizens of Europe at all.
Experts in Brno also reviewed the current situation in Belgrade, from where Šabatová said about 250 Romani families had been evicted, reportedly without any negotiation or warning. The people evicted have reportedly not been provided with comparable shelter. "From this we see that evictions of Romani people are nothing new and that they continue," said the Bulgarian AEDH member, Stoil Cicelkov.
ČHV reported that the aversion of the majority population to Romani people is growing in the Czech Republic. Research and surveys reportedly show that during the past 10 years, the number of people harboring such aversion has risen from 60 to 75 % of the population.
According to AEDH, Romani people comprise Europe's largest ethnic minority, numbering between 10 and 12 million people. Romani people grapple with discrimination, intolerance, poverty, prejudice and social exclusion on a daily basis.
The experts discussed three topics in Brno: Access to rights for members of the Romani minority, discrimination against Romani people, and violence against Romani people. The final block of the program covered the topic of upholding Romani dignity.
The European Association for the Defense of Human Rights brings together groups defending human rights in the countries of the European Union. The association does its best to influence institutions to take actions that benefit human rights. AEDH does not conceive of human rights as something that the state alone must take care of, but as something that citizens create and guarantee for one another.
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