Weekly news

ERIO'S WEEKLY E-NEWS 19-12-2014

ERIO news and activities

* ERIO screening/debate “The untold story: the Roma and Sinti Holocaust”
The 12th of December, ERIO organised a screening of a documentary “The untold story: the Roma and Sinti Holocaust” developed in the context of the MemoROM project  which includes interviews with Sinti Holocaust survivors Rita Prigmore and Zoni Weisz, and two experts and academics. The screening, held in Brussels, was followed by a debate. Participants included students, teachers, researchers and Roma and non-Roma civil society representatives. Zoni Weisz was a guest speaker.

After the introduction of the MemoROM project, the testimony of Zoni Weisz was screened, where he detailed what he lived through during the Second World War, escaping from the Nazis. A recorded testimony of Rita Prigmore on the trauma she suffered during the Holocaust and her struggle against the German state to get compensation was also screened. Both testimonies were followed by a discussion with Zoni Weisz on his personal experience of the Holocaust and as Roma and Sinti rights defendant since the post-war period, the discussion quickly progressing to modern day topics and the future of the Roma and Sinti people in Europe.   
Through this event it was stressed that more information needed to be made available to the general public and to the Roma on the suffering and resistance of the Roma and Sinti during the Holocaust as they have often been ignored. Teachers noted the lack of teaching materials on the topic but are happy to use the MemoROM DVD to assist them in class.

The MemoROM project aims to create an International Remembrance Network to raise awareness about the Roma and Sinti Holocaust in order to fight discrimination, prejudices and stereotypes about these communities.

Visit the project website: www.romasintiholocaust.eu
* ERIO meeting with university Hungarian Roma students
On December 12th, ERIO met with Roma students and teachers from the Hungarian University of Debrecen in Brussels. The meeting was organised in cooperation with the Embassy of Hungary in Belgium with the aim to introduce ERIO’s work to them and discuss the progress of Roma integration at the EU level.

We informed the guests about ERIO’s mission, activities and how it had evolved since its creation in 2003. The major developments that had been achieved at the European level in terms of Roma integration were also discussed, notably the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies and the establishment of the national Roma strategies. Possibilities on how the Roma students could get involved in ERIO’s work were presented, namely through our internship programme. The meeting was concluded by a short testimony of the Sinti activist Zoni Weisz on his personal experience as a survivor of the Holocaust. 
* ERIO at ILGA’s conference “Bullying and discrimination in schools – What the EU and the Council of Europe can do?”
On 16 December 2014, ERIO attended the conference “Bullying and discrimination in schools – What the EU and the Council of Europe can do?” organised by ILGA-Europe in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The event was attended by Members of the European Parliament and some assistants, representatives of the Council of Europe and civil society as well as school teachers.
At the conference, the issue of school bullying and discrimination on the ground of ethnic origin and sexual orientation or gender identity was discussed. The limited EU competences in education were acknowledged and the importance to put the issue at the forefront of EU actions in the area of education was stressed.

Marta Pinto, ERIO’s Policy Officer, as an invited speaker presented the case of school bullying and discrimination towards Roma children and young people that takes many forms: racist bullying, exclusionary practices and discrimination, by teachers, school staff or fellow students. She shared the experiences of Roma mothers interviewed under the SMILE project, who witness racism and bullying in the school playground, where they hear non-Roma students calling Roma children: ”Dirty Gypsies”; “Do you see the Gypsy? Be careful!”).

Ms Pinto then explained how discrimination of Roma children takes place when they are improperly and disproportionately placed in “special schools” for pupils with learning difficulties and mental disabilities simply because they are Roma. School segregation on grounds of ethnic origin, she noted, violates the European Human Rights Convention and the Racial Equality Directive and must be brought to an end. Reference to the welcomed EC infringement procedures against the Czech Republic for violation of EU anti-discrimination laws was made. ERIO’s Policy Officer concluded that a strong political commitment is needed to end school bullying and discrimination. Activities that raise awareness of mechanisms to prevent and address discrimination in education are needed as well as training for all school professionals, social workers and educational psychologists with the aim of creating a school environment that respects and embraces the diversity of its student population.
* ERIO  participation in the European Parliament Report on Cohesion Policy and Marginalized Communities
MEP Terry Reintke, who will be appointed in the REGI committee of the European Parliament as rapporteur for an initiative report on "Cohesion policy and marginalised communities" invited ERIO and other European network organizations for a consultation meeting . The report will be aiming to check how the new rules of the new structural fund period work for marginalised groups, especially for Roma. This includes the partnership agreements and operational programs and generally structural funds allocated to serve marginalised groups.

OTHER news

* From Beggar to M.E.P. – a Roma Integration Story
December 11, 2014 - On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day and the International Migrants Day, MEP Damian Drăghici (S&D) organized a conference where he presented his personal story. The Conference also discussed the protection of human rights as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world and that the Human Rights Day provides an opportunity to promote understanding and recognition of the dignity and rights of all members of the human family.
The Conference on the Human Rights Day as a time to think about and honor the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,  to consider the role of all relevant actors  in developing a culture where everyone has a sense of belonging, where all groups can succeed, and to which everyone can contribute.
* Get a job, Pope urges Roma Gypsies as he calls on them to 'integrate' with civic society
Pope Francis has told Roma gypsies to 'get a job' and integrate more in society. Speaking during a visit to a Roma community, the Pope told 40 gypsy members to try and contribute more. He said: 'Seek work and integration, without ever succumbing to despair. I greet you and I wish all good things for you. That you will always have peace in your families, that you have work, that you have joy.' He then said: 'The Church is with you, it welcomes you always, especially this parish. Always be close to the Church. Don't lose hope.'

After the speech, Pope Francis greeted and hugged the Roma gypsies present in the Prima Porta suburb of Rome.

Read more here
* 17 December: the day we lost our homes
By Claudia Linda Zsiga, a Roma woman and activist in Romania.

16/12/ 2014 - 17 December will forever be a sad day for me. It’s the day when, four years ago, 76 Roma families, including mine, were forcibly evicted from our homes on Coastei Street in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. We did nothing wrong. Our only fault was that we are Roma.In the middle of a harsh winter, with just one day’s notice, we were told we needed to move. The local authorities relocated us to the outskirts of the city, close to a landfill and a former chemical dump.Forty families were given just one room each of 16 or 18 square meters. The other 36 families were effectively left homeless, as they were told to ‘build something’ on the nearby plots of land. A new life began for us on that 17 December – in an area potentially damaging for our health, far away from the city and the life we once knew.

Read more here
* Czech Govt Agency for Social Inclusion director says normal housing is the best gift for children in residential hotels
By news server Deník.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

15/12/2014, Prague - News server Deník.cz has published an interview with the director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, Martin Šimáček. In it he discusses the sad prospects of children in excluded localities, indebtedness and other reasons for the current crises in many families, and Christmas.

"I'm talking about children living in the residential hotels in some of the worst excluded localities. I estimate that 20 000 children are living in those extreme conditions. For them the best gift would probably be if they were able to move into normal housing," Šímáček said.

Read more here
* Media present Roma in a stereotypical way - The Slovak Spectator
By Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports

Some journalists still view Roma as a separate group and not as a part of Slovak society. This is the finding of the analysis elaborated by the Romano Kher – Rómsky dom (meaning Roma House) civic association in collaboration with the Newton Media agency.

The analysis scrutinised almost 900 reports published in dailies Sme, Pravda, Hospodárske noviny, Plus jeden deň and Nový Čas, on websites aktualne.sk, pluska.sk a topky.sk and in main newscast of TV channels Markíza, TV Joj, TA3 and the public Jednotka RTVS, statutory representative of the Romano kher – Rómsky dom Agnes Horváthová informed the SITA newswire.

Read more here
* Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Condemns ‘Racist Threat’ of Health Minister
By Novinite

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) has expressed indignation at the warning of Health Minister Petar Moskov that emergency medical teams will not enter Roma districts unless their safety is guaranteed.

Moskov made clear Sunday that ambulances would not enter Roma neighborhoods where attacks against doctors, paramedics, or ambulance drivers had been registered unless they had reached agreement with the leaders of Roma communities or they were accompanied by police officers.
In a media statement published on Monday, the BHC described Moskov’s Sunday statement as “a racist threat.”

Read more here
* Open Society Voices: How Getting Involved in Politics Transformed One Roma Village’s Future
By Marian Daragiu & Marius Tudor

In today’s Romania, Roma are vastly under-represented politically, and many have come to find themselves divorced from democracy, something that has only deepened the community’s troubles. The story of Filipeştii de Târg shows how this kind of systematic disenfranchisement can hold back a people - and how those determined to break free of this can change their trajectory for generations to come.

Filipeştii de Târg is a commune of 7,700 residents nestled among the fairytale towns and forested hills of Prahova County, Romania. The commune is composed of three villages: Brătăşanca, Filipeştii de Târg, and Mărginenii de Jos. Thirty-five percent of its people are Roma, and with few exceptions they all live in the village of Mărginenii de Jos.

Despite the fact that more than a third of its population is Roma, until two decades ago Mărginenii de Jos had never elected a Roma person as local councilor. That changed in 1996, when a young petrol engineer named Gheorghe Tudor (father of Marius, one of the authors) was voted into office — the sole Roma among 14 other non-Roma councilors.

Read more here
* Open Society Voices: How Getting Involved in Politics Transformed One Roma Village’s Future
By The Local

Just 12 kilometres (seven miles) from downtown Madrid, hundreds of Romanian Roma are living without running water or toilets in third world conditions, a lawyer working with the community has told The Local.

Madrid's El Gallinero neighbourhood is a world away from the bustling streets of the city centre. Rubbish litters the streets while armies of rodents and insects infest the temporary shacks that make up the slum. The area is home to around 300 Romanian Roma children and their families in conditions that "represent a grave violation of their human rights" according to the charity Save the Children, which has just published a report on the area together with the Family Institute at Madrid's Pontificia Comillas University.

Just some of the basic human rights violated include "the right to a decent home, water and sanitation as well as to social assistance, education or healthcare", according to the report. One little girl interviewed by authors spoke of her fear of the mice and snakes that came into her shack: "The mice, right, sometimes they come into the houses at night and if there are little kids there, they eat them up."

Read more here

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