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Europe 'not protecting Roma'

Richard Connor
April 8, 2014

Amnesty International has warned that the EU and its member states are failing to protect their Romani communities. The rights group highlights forced evictions, hate crime and police victimization as major concerns.

Roma woman at Montreuil camp
Image: DW/L. Bryant

In its report to coincide with International Roma Day on Tuesday, Amnesty said many of the 10 to 12 million Roma living in Europe endured precarious living conditions and hate crimes.

A significant number, said Amnesty, "face the threat of forced eviction, police harassment and violent attacks." In the report, published on its website, the group accused many European leaders of echoing populist anti Roma sentiment, the group enjoying little or no political representation of its own.

“All too often European leaders have pandered to the prejudices fueling anti-Roma violence by branding Roma as anti-social and unwelcome. While generally condemning the most blatant examples of anti-Roma violence, authorities have been reluctant to acknowledge its extent and slow to combat it."

Amnesty accused EU governments, as well as the European Commission, of failing to use all means within its legislative arsenal to combat both violence and discrimination.

"The European Commission, which is responsible for overseeing the application of EU laws in the member states, has to date failed to take clear and decisive action to address discrimination and violence against Roma in member states,” said Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia director John Dalhuisen.

A traditionally nomadic people, the Roma are said to have wandered to Europe from India centuries ago. During World War II, hundred of thousands were killed by the Nazis, many having already fled to Eastern Europe to escape centuries of persecution further west.

'Passive and active discrimination'

In Greece, police were accused of harassing Roma, conducting some 1,130 operations against Romani settlements in the first nine months of last year. Amnesty accused the police there of failing to intevene to stop racially motivated attacks.

Amnesty also documented an example in France, where police were said to have forcibly evicted Roma from their camps using excessive force. Officers were at times reported to have sprayed tear gas into tents where children were sleeping .

Romani communities in the Czech Republic, Amnesty said, were subject to systematic harassment, linked with anti-Roma protests, across the country.

Amnesty's report comes less than two days after the Hungarian far-right Jobbik party, known for its anti-Roma agenda, scooped more than 20 percent of votes in a general election. The party was projected to gain more than 10 percent of seats in the national parliament.

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