World Roma Day (April 8)
Discrimination and exclusion of Sinti and Roma must end (Press Release)
On the occasion of the World Roma Day on April 8, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) would like to draw attention to the ongoing systematic discrimination against members of this minority. The organization is calling for better protection for Roma and Sinti all over the world: "The minority represents all those who suffered serious human rights violations in armed conflicts, in war and genocide regions. They have become guiltless victims, and they are still massively discriminated against today. This must stop," demanded Jasna Causevic, the STP's Expert on Genocide Prevention and Responsibility to Protect, in Göttingen on Friday. Further, Causevic stated that not only nation states, but also the UN and its institutions, don't seem to care much about ignorance and racism towards a minority whose rights they should actually protect and promote.
A group of Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians from Kosovo are demanding justice and reparations from the United Nations: after the NATO intervention in Kosovo (1999), several hundred Roma, Ashkali, and Balkan Egyptians were accommodated in five lead-contaminated refugee camps in northern Mitrovica. At least 192 Roma, including many children, who got in contact with the lead are still struggling with the consequences. "Against better knowledge, they were accommodated in a lead-contaminated area for about twelve years," criticized Roma activist Argentina Gidži?. "They deserve an apology and compensation." However, the UN is not willing to pay compensation, even though the Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP) of the UN Mission to Kosovo had recommended to do so. Recently, 55 members of the European Parliament and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxic Substances had appealed to UN Secretary-General António Guterres to finally act. "We expect the UN to stick to its basic principles: taking responsibility for the vulnerable and the strengthening of minority rights," Causevic emphasized.
Since the beginning of the Kosovo War, around 130,000 of the 150,000 Roma and Ashkali have been driven out the country – and there are still killings, cases of rape, kidnappings, torture, and racial persecution to this day. Antiziganism, the main cause of flight and displacement in this context, is still widespread. On the other hand, there are hardly any measures to improve the situation. Especially the governments of south-eastern Europe should be reminded (and adequately supported) to grant the Roma access to adequate housing, education, employment, and medical care.
The international World Roma Day is celebrated April 8, to acknowledge the contribution of the Sinti and Roma minority, who have been living in Europe for more than 1,000 years, to Europe's culture and history. The first World Roma Congress was held in London on April 8, 1971. The Third World Roma Congress took place in 1981, organized by the STP in Göttingen – under the patronage of Indira Gandhi and Simon Wiesenthal. The STP is a member of the Alliance for Solidarity with the Sinti and Roma of Europe.
Header Image: Diversity via Flickr