Soraya Post: Roma deportations increasing due to Syrian refugee crisis
The deportation of Roma refugees in Europe is increasing because of the influx of Syrian refugees in Europe, according to Soraya Post, a Swedish member of the European Parliament.
"There are about 80,000 that will be sent back to their country of origin" as a result of the new laws in Sweden, Post said.
Post, who is of Roma and German-Jewish origin, made her comments during an international conference on the forced sterilization of Roma that was held in Prague, Czech Republic on June 1st. The conference was organized by the OSCE and the Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues.
Ingrid Schioler, a former refugee counselor for the Swedish Red Cross and longtime Roma rights activist, confirmed that Roma refugees in Sweden are being negatively affected by the Syrian refugee crisis. She said a new law in Sweden now lists "obviously unfounded asylum application" as a reason for rejection, and this especially affects refugees from the Balkans who tend to be mostly Roma.
Post said that Roma applicants were also being rejected under the presumption that conditions in the Balkans are not dangerous, and said "I don't agree these are safe countries...for Roma."
Post said both Sweden and Germany had increased deportations of Roma since the refugee crisis stemming from the war in Syria, saying that so-called paperless refugees were the most affected.
Though Swedish citizens are generally positively disposed toward and helpful to refugees, the Swedish government has closed its borders to them and instituted new, more difficult regulations for staying in Sweden, Post said. For example, family reunification was removed as criteria for granting visas.
"Everybody tried to help these people, but what the Swedish government did was close the borders," Post said.
"A lot of people from the different Roma groups are hiding. They are living without papers, and being helped by churches, organization, voluntary organizations," Schioler confirmed. "Roma from Kosovo will almost never have asylum in Sweden," she said. "Before it was easier because you could apply again every four years."
"It's in some way discrimination against Roma people versus other people applying," Schioler said.
Statistics about the number of Roma who have been denied asylum are unclear because Swedish law forbids registration based on ethnicity, especially since the recent scandal that found regional police using an ethnic register of Roma, Schioler said.
Likewise, statistics about deportation are unavailable because the government only counts rejected asylum applications but not deportations. "The numbers are not there for deportation because some Roma people leave on their own and go to other countries, some hide," Schioler said.
On the issue of forced sterilization, Post said she hoped the conference, attended by representatives from a dozen European countries and including victims of forced sterilization, will reinvigorate efforts to address the issue: “I hope they will have more energy to address the question, to share good practices, to get inspired, get new ideas, and strategies on how to deal with this.”
The refusal to address the forced sterilization of Roma is part of the larger context, Post said.
“It’s one symptom of antigypsyism, along with segregated schools, unemployment, hate speech and hate crime, and politicians who use Roma before elections to get votes,” Post said.
“The Roma are kept in a socially excluded environment, to justify how they are treated,” said the MEP. The larger society is “causing the failures, and then blaming the Roma for the failures.”
This serves to legitimize anti-Roma sentiment. “It’s a way for decent people to still feel decent” when expressing racism toward Roma, according to Post.
“There is no shame,” Post said. They might feel bad about expressing other hateful attitudes, “but when it comes to Roma, they don’t have to feel shame.”
About the scandal in Sweden involving a police department keeping an ethnic register of Roma living in that country, Post said, "It is antigypsyism…They don’t understand what they did wrong, because it is deeply rooted. The police were not alone in this,” Post said, because tax authorities and social authorities had to be involved to gather the information. “It’s much huger than they wanted to admit.”
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