Europe,  Human Rights

On treating Roma as individuals

Guest post by Sarah

While looking up further coverage of Sarkozy and his statements about the Roma I came across an excellent post on Flesh is Grass.

I wholeheartedly agreed with the analysis of the problematic way the Roma were being treated– collectively, rather than on an individual basis:

Yes, [France] reserves the right to destroy unauthorised encampments. But there are doubts that France has been repatriating on a case by case basis as it is legally obliged to. And France has inexcusably accompanied lawful action with racist rhetoric. Hence the world’s eyes on France and the UN Commission’s emphasis on appearance.

But I felt some uncertainty about the discussion of travellers which followed. Some people who object to camps may be bigoted, but that doesn’t in itself mean that there may not be legitimate concerns, even if these are sometimes exaggerated by scapegoating or exacerbated by hostility on the part of the settled community. These people, just like the Roma, deserve to treated seriously, as individuals, and not dismissed as obvious racists.

Returning to the real problems faced by European Roma– David T drew my attention to a recent disturbing report which describes how Roma in Smolensk were indiscriminately photographed and fingerprinted.

Yesterday, August 26, 2010 I received a complaint from Roma about the recent police raid undertaken in Smolensk. As, the victims reported, police entered their house in the day time yesterday and wanted to take photos and to do fingerprinting of all members of the family. This family does not have any criminal records, however as one of the policemen stated: “We do what we are assigned to do. This is the decision of the General. He said that we need to do fingerprinting and photos of ALL Roma in Smolensk region.

Today, August 27, 2010 the police went to the markets of Smolensk and undertook their unlawful raid there. They were doing photos and fingerprinting on the spot. The violation of human rights is obvious.

Commenters on my previous post distinguished between ‘cultural’ and ‘ethnic’ Roma, asserting that they had no problem with those who made a contribution to society. (It is not reported whether the Smolensk police were equally discriminating.) But it seems that substantial barriers are placed in the way of children who might want to live more conventionally, and events such as the crackdown in Smolensk need to be scrutinised.