Posted by on 6 Apr 2011. Filed under Current Affairs, Top news. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

UNHRC attacks Slovakia over Roma; time to find solutions

A lot of attention is starting to turn to Slovakia over the issue of how it deals with the Roma minority, with various discussions on the internet and a call by the European Network Against Racism for Slovakia to step up its legislation in the area of racism and discrimination.

Now the UN Human Rights Council has issued a recommendation for Slovakia to bring an end to the segregation of Roma in schools and discrimination of Roma overall. The Council is demanding that Slovakia comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in this respect.

Roma children are often put into schools for children with special needs because of a lack of basic education, regardless of how intelligent they are. This was shown on TV recently as a teacher explained that the Roma children in her class did not even know the names of the basic primary colours. A lot of the time local schools have only Roma children in them, but this is frequently caused also by the almost exclusive Roma populations in school catchment areas.

The level of racism against Roma on the level of the general population is still very high in Slovakia, with those with racist tendencies using the difficult co-habitation with the Roma as an excuse. This can also be seen in a recent discussion on the website Globalvoices.

Even the staff of the Roma Press Agency receive regular death threats. Head of the Roma media centre, Kristina Magdolenova, feels that racists are being encouraged because the Roma are referred to as merely a social group, and that the perception of them as a national minority is fading.

Since becoming independent, the governments of Slovakia have done very little on a pragmatic level to change the situation, both in terms of education of the Roma and of the rest of the population. Essentially, any progress made will be futile unless the Roma communities themselves start to be more pro-active to wipe out the bad reputation they have in Slovak society. The involvement and encouragement of Roma parents is therefore crucial.

There are no easy solutions to the assimilation of certain Roma communities into mainstream society, but progress would certainly be made if more grassroot organisations were established and given more support, and this is an issue that not only concerns Slovakia, but a large part of the EU.

Making sure that all Roma children go to school is a top priority for the European Commission, which presented its proposals yersterday (5 April) for each EU member state to develop a national strategy for Roma integration by the end of the year.

2 Comments for “UNHRC attacks Slovakia over Roma; time to find solutions”

  1. James Baxter

    One little insight I have into this, as a secondary school teacher, is that no’one knows anything about the Roma and their history. Not only that, there is no real curiosity, no great wish to know more. The vast majority of Slovaks have their prejudices and are happy to continue with them. There’s no real recognition that a little knowledge might lead to more understanding and thus some chance that the barriers between the Roma and mainstream might be broken down.

  2. Gregory Fabian J.D.

    This is an excerpt of a presentation I gave at the event “Roma in Slovakia after 1989″ on 10 December 2010 in Bratislava, organized by Civic Association “In Minorita”, Civic Association Romano kher – Roma house, under the auspices of the Plenipotentiary of the Government of the Slovak Republic for Roma Communities:
    “SINCE I HAVE RETURNED TO SLOVAKIA, I HAVE MARVELLED AT THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DURING THE NINE YEARS I WAS AWAY. INDEED, SLOVAKIA HAS BECOME A MEMBER STATE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION. I AM VERY CONCERNED, THOUGH, THAT THERE HAS BEEN LITTLE PROGRESS IN ENSURING EQUALITY AND NON-DISCRIMINATION FOR THE ROMA COMMUNITY. TO BE SURE, I READ OF A CONSIDERABLE ALLOTMENT OF GOVERNMENT AND INTERNATIONAL FUNDS, MANY WELL INTENDED PROGRAMS, AN ANTI DISCRIMINATION LAW, AND MUCH ACTIVITY IN GOVERNMENT AND CIVIL SOCIETY. BUT THERE HAS BEEN LITTLE PROGRESS ON ONE IMPORTANT ASPECT OF THE ISSUE – THE ATTITUDE OF A LARGE PORTION OF THE NON-ROMA COMMUNITY TOWARDS THE ROMA COMMUNITY.
    THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION FOR THE ROMA IN SLOVAKIA IS VERY SERIOUS, AS IT IS THIS YEAR, IN PARTICULAR, IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES THROUGHOUT EUROPE. THERE IS STILL A VERY LARGE NUMBER OF NON-ROMA PEOPLE IN SLOVAKIA WHO DENY THAT MEMBERS OF THE ROMA COMMUNITY ARE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST. THEY REFER TO THE SITUATION OF THE ROMA AS “THE ROMA PROBLEM” OR “THE ROMA QUESTION” INSTEAD OF “THE PROBLEMS THAT ROMA FACE.” THUS THEY ARE IN DISCRIMINATION DENIAL. FURTHER, THERE IS A SERIOUS LONG TERM PROBLEM WITH THE PERPETUATION OF NEGATIVE ETHNIC STEREOTYPES WHICH ONLY SERVES TO PREVENT THE ROMA COMMUNITY FROM REALIZING THEIR RIGHTS IN EQUALITY WITH ALL IN SOCIETY.
    I CONSTANTLY HEAR FROM NON-ROMA PERSONS THAT THE ROMA MUST HELP THEMSELVES OUT OF THEIR DIRE SITUATION. BUT THE PROBLEMS THAT ROMA FACE IN SOCIETY ARE NOT JUST THEIR PROBLEMS, BUT THE PROBLEMS OF NON-ROMA AS WELL. FOR WITHOUT THE SUPPORT AND COOPERATION OF NON ROMA SOCIETY, THEY WILL NEVER BE ABLE REALIZE THEIR RIGHTS IN EQUALITY WITH OTHERS. AND IF THIS LACK OF COOPERATION CONTINUES, A SITUATION COULD ARISE IN THE WORST CASE WHICH COULD CAUSE A THREAT TO SECURITY, PEACE AND STABILITY IN SLOVAKIA. THUS NON ROMA SOCIETY HAS MUCH TO DO TO ACKNOWLEDGE DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE ROMA IN SLOVAKIA AND TO TAKE MEASURES TO ADDRESS IT. SUCH MEASURES SHOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE A FORM OF CONFLICT PREVENTION.”

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