Human Rights

Welcome to Slovakia, unless you are Roma

Twenty years after the Berlin Wall came down, in Slovakia, they are building new walls with public money, to keep out the Roma. I travelled to a village called Ostrovany last week, where Roma live in a ghetto on the edge of the settlement in conditions of medieval squalor, in houses made of mud and sticks with no running water or sewage connections. But the local municipality has found enough public money to pay for a concrete wall 150 metres long and 2.2 metres high to separate the Roma from their neighbours. Welcome to the European Union in the 21st century.

The most solidly built structure in the Roma ghetto in Ostrovany is the wall dividing it from the rest of the village, built with €13,000 (£11,300) of public funds to separate those living in conditions of medieval squalor from their better-off non-Roma neighbours.

The 150m structure, made from grey concrete slabs 2.2m (7ft) high, has caused outrage among the Roma and human rights activists. “Nobody told us that this was happening — they just came one day and started building,” said Peter Kaleja. “The mayor should not have spent that money on the wall, but should have built houses for us.”

Mr Kaleja, 21, lives with his wife and 19-month-old daughter in a tiny shack made of mud and wood. The freezing winter wind blows hard through the flimsy walls and there is no running water, gas or sewage connection, although they do have electricity and a wood-burning stove. They survive on benefits of €170 a month.

Read more in my article in The Times.

Gene adds: According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website:

Among the groups the Nazi regime and its Axis partners singled out for persecution on so-called racial grounds were the Roma (Gypsies).

Drawing support from many non-Nazi Germans who harbored social prejudice towards Roma, the Nazis judged Roma to be “racially inferior.” The fate of Roma in some ways paralleled that of the Jews. Under the Nazi regime, German authorities subjected Roma to arbitrary internment, forced labor, and mass murder. German authorities murdered tens of thousands of Roma in the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union and Serbia and thousands more in the killing centers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. The SS and police incarcerated Roma in the Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen, and Ravensbrück concentration camps. Both in the so-called Greater German Reich and in the so-called Generalgouvernement, German civilian authorities managed several forced-labor camps in which they incarcerated Roma.

Some of our commenters need to think long and hard before making generalizations about “the Roma.”