Millions of European Roma discriminated against

Gerrard Winstanley office at
Tue Sep 30 20:19:45 BST 2008

Millions of Roma discriminated against in Europe
September 30, 2008, 9:04

The Roma people are Europe's largest minority group, with some ten
million scattered across the continent. A recent report by the
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe says Roma
communities continue to face disadvantages and discrimination.

There are roughly 250,000 Roma people in the Czech Republic. More than
88,000 live in ghettos, the legacy of the Communist past where they
were segregated socially and geographically.

Chanov is the biggest and the most notorious ghetto in the country.
Those who end up here have little to hope for. They say once you are
in this place there is no way out.

According to human rights groups, Roma people face persecution in all
areas of life.

"The Roman community faces very severe discrimination in the field of
housing, employment, healthcare and special education," said Helena
Povolna, a spokesperson for Amnesty International in the Czech Republic.

She added: "Education discrimination is the most serious problem
because when the children don't obtain equal and sufficient education
they cannot enter social life equally and they're limited in their

Although the Czech authorities no longer place Roma children in
'special schools', concerns remain. Activists say there is no law to
protect the community properly.

Amnesty reports cases of Roma women being subjected to sterilisation
without their consent as late as 2004. Members of the community have
also been frequent victims of racial violence.

Over the last 15 years at least 28 Roma people have been killed in the
Czech Republic because of their race, claims Ivan Vesely, who is
Deputy Head of the Government Council for the Roma Community.

He says the reason for this xenophobia is simple: Roma culture is that
of travelling people with little value attached to permanent jobs of

Public opinion is against them. People say Roma make their living by
theft and attacks.

"The worst is the xenophobia and the lack of work for Roma on the
labour market. When there is no job, it's impossible to pay for
housing and for other basic needs," said Iveta Millerova, head of
Chanov community centre. "Society then sees us as people who are using
social benefits and don't want to work."

In spite of everything, all Roma people hope that one day they'll be
able to break the stereotypes and prejudice of the majority of society
and have a bright future.

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