NEWS and Discussions

Subject: Letter from President of the European Commission

Dear all,

I have just received note of a reply from Jose-Manel Barroso,
President of the European Commission, to the letter sent on 11th
September with the Roma Petition.

Here is the text of the letter:

Thank you for your letter of 11 September concerning the situation of
Roma people in Italy, and the attached petition.

At the Roma Summit on 16 September, the European Commission strongly
condemned any form of discrimination against Roma people. The
Commission is firmly committed, together with Member States, to fight
the exclusion that Roma people face in many European Union Member States.

As regards the situation in Italy, on 1 August the Commission received
from the Italian authorities a report on the situation in the
unauthorized nomad camps in Italy, including a report on the
guidelines, issued by the Minister of the Interior, the positive
opinion of the Italian data protection authority and letters from the
Italian Red Cross and UNICEF.

On 4 September, Vice-President Barrot sent a letter to the Italian
authorities taking note of this information, particularly the fact
that the guidelines do not authorise the collection of data on ethnic
origin or religion, and that fingerprinting is subject to strict
conditions (including for minors) and should be used only for
identification purposes, and as a last resort, when identification is
not possible by other means.

Vice-President Barrot insisted on the importance for the census to be
carried out in strict compliance with both the word and the spirit of
the guidelines as well as the rules on data protection. Furthermore,
the Commission will follow with utmost attention the further
development of the census and have asked the Italian authorities to
keep it informed on the conclusions and the final results of this

I trust this information meets the concerns you expressed in your letter.

Yours sincerely,

Jose Manuel Barroso.

Media finally starting to get it....

When WREG-TV in Memphis began investigating complaints about local
locksmiths recently, the station discovered that locksmiths would quote customers one price when they started a job. After it was complete, they
would hand the customer a much larger bill than expected.

News Director Bruce Moore said his station's investigation uncovered thatthese locksmiths are engaged in illegal and deceptive practices. And there was an interesting twist. The news reporters learned that reputable
locksmiths have names for these operators, who are dispatched from a call center in Florida. They call them "rogue" or "gypsy" locksmiths.

While working on the script, the word gypsy sounded alarms, said Moore. He wondered whether using such a description would be relying on a stereotype and therefore seem insensitive. Would it be appropriate to use such stereotypes even though that's how other locksmiths referred to them? Moore contacted Poynter via e-mail about his concerns.

Al Tompkins, Poynter's broadcast/online group leader, responded that "Yes, the word gypsy is off limits unless they are gypsies as in Roma gypsies
(which I doubt.) You would be promoting a stereotype that I suspect most people are unaware of. The word jip is also a reference to gypsies. Do these stereotypes hurt? Yes. An estimated 600,000 gypsies were killed in the
Holocaust along with Jews and gays."

As a former ethics and diversity faculty member at Poynter, I agree with Tompkins. Anytime you promote a stereotype, you undermine your credibility.

Relying on stereotypes for descriptions also becomes shorthand that can be
misinterpreted. It creates images in the minds of viewers and readers. Those images tend to vary from one person to another.

For example, when you use the word gypsy, are you referring to the Rom, who
came from Serbia, the Ludar from southern and eastern Europe, the Romnichels
from England or a group from Germany or Hungary?

More often than not, stereotypical terms result in confusion about what you want to describe. More important than being sensitive is upholding the
fundamental value of accuracy.

The best way to be accurate is to be specific. Use facts and descriptions
that accurately convey the subjects of your story by describing specifically what these locksmiths do and don't do compared to certified, law-abiding

WREG ultimately decided not to use the word gypsy. "We were already leaning against using it, even though many people still use it freely," Moore said after the story aired. "Common use doesn't excuse insensitivity."
Serbian Roma Legend to Get a Boulevard

Belgrade, 19 March 2009
One of the boulevards in Nis, the largest city in Southern Serbia, could soon bear the name of the legendary singer of Roma music Saban Bajramovic.

According to the daily Blic this was a proposal put forward by the board that is in charge of naming streets and squares in Nis. The recommendation will then be forwarded to the Ministry for Public Administration and Local Self Government after the board members from the City Assembly of Nis agree on it.

The President of the Board Dragoljub Stamenkovic told ''Blic'' that he expects the procedure to be finished by the beginning of June when the first anniversary of Bajromivic's death will be marked.

"It is very important that Saban's wife Milica Bajramovic also agrees, because it would be wrong to make a decision if members of his family do not agree. The Board considered several suggestions and by the majority of votes, this suggestion has been accepted. The boulevard is still not finished, but it will be a street worthy of the great singer," Stamenkovic says.

A suggestion to name one of the streets in Nis after Bajramovic was made by officials of the Nisville Jazz Festival.

Saban Bajramovic was born in Nis in 1936. At the age of 19 he deserted the army to run away with a girl with whom he had fallen in love. As a deserter, he was sentenced to three years prison on the notorious island of Goli Otok where opponents to former Yugoslav President Tito were sent. He started his musical career in the prison orchestra that played, among other things, jazz (mostly Louis Armstrong, Sinatra, and sometimes John Coltrane) with Spanish and Mexican pieces. Once he left Goli Otok, his music career took off. He made his first record in 1964, and since then is believed to have composed 650 songs. Saban also composed the official Roma people anthem "Djelem, Djelem" in 1964.

After years of hard and fast living, he faded out of the limelight and in 2008, was found living an impoverished existance in Nis, with serious health complications and was no longer able to walk. The government of Serbia intervened to provide him with some funds. He died in Nis on June 8, 2008, from a heart attack.

Hungary buries two Roma killed by hate

Published: March 3, 2009

TATARSZENTGYORGY, Hungary: Thousands of people, mostly Roma, joined the funeral procession Tuesday of a young boy and his father who were shot dead last week in the latest in a series of attacks on Roma in Hungary.

A crowd of about 5,000, which also included politicians from parliamentary parties and civil rights activists, gathered around the graves of the two victims in the village of Tatarszentgyorgy, 65 kilometers, or 40 miles, southeast of Budapest.

Black-clad mourners wept and when the coffin was lowered into the grave in the small hillside cemetery, the world-famous 100-member Gypsy Symphony Orchestra started to play.

"We seek the forgiveness of the mourning family and...our Gypsy brethren whom for 500 years we have owed an embrace," the Hungarian Methodist pastor Gabor Ivanyi, who is not Roma, said as he addressed the gathering. "We are a deeply moved and ashamed people."

The killings last Monday were the latest in a series of more than a dozen attacks on Roma in Hungary in which seven people have died over the past year.

President Laszlo Solyom of Hungary said Saturday that the economic crisis had created an urgent need for Hungary and other east European countries to show more understanding for Roma.

It was not known whether the attack was racially motivated and the police have so far failed to find the perpetrators, but Roma community leaders said it bore similarities to other attacks on Roma in other parts of the country.

The boy, who police say was 5 years old, and his father Robert Csorba were shot and killed as they were trying to escape their house, which had been set on fire. Two other children were injured in the blaze.

The Roma community is Hungary's largest minority, making up 5 to 7 percent of the population of 10 million.

There is a growing resentment against the Roma, also known as gypsies, as the economic crisis deepens and jobs are lost. The Roma often remain on the margins, lacking jobs and proper education and living in deep poverty. Critics say they take advantage of the welfare state.

The strengthening of the far-right over the past two years, which fights what it says is a rise in "Roma crime," has also contributed to an increase in antagonism, activists say.

The village of Tatarszentgyorgy, which has about 1,900 residents, has been shocked by the attack.

"We still cannot comprehend what happened and this sentiment rules in the entire village," a Roma couple said.

Peter Ignacz, 50, who arrived from Szolnok in the east of Hungary with around 30 members of his family and is also of Roma origin, said the Roma do not get any protection.

"This is totally outrageous," he said, "and to be honest, Roma people are afraid."

Opposition leader denounces attacks on Gypsy camps as gov't readies crime crackdown

Associated Press
ROME: Italy's top opposition leader on Monday denounced attacks on Gypsy camps, as Premier Silvio Berlusconi's new government prepared a crackdown on immigration and the European Parliament agreed to a debate on how Gypsies are treated in Italy.

Center-left leader Walter Veltroni, who lost to Berlusconi last month in elections, urged the government to balance security concerns with human rights.

Last week, attackers set fire to shacks where Gypsies lived on the outskirts of Naples, following an alleged attempt by a Gypsy youth to kidnap a baby from a home in a Naples suburb. The camps were evacuated.

There have been increasing calls by conservative politicians for harsher measures against foreigners in Italy. Surveys in the runup to the parliamentary elections that swept Berlusconi and right-wing allies into power indicated that many Italians blame immigrants for crime.

Berlusconi will lead a Cabinet meeting in Naples on Wednesday. Among measures expected to be decided at the meeting is a crackdown on illegal immigration and on foreigners who

Veltroni called the attacks on Gypsy settlements in Naples "very grave" and said anti-crime measures must achieve a "balance between security and rights," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Rome's former mayor as saying.

The European Parliament on Monday approved a request by European Socialists to debate how Italy treats Gypsies, who are also known as Roma.

The debate, the latest in a series of occasional discussions in the parliament on Europe's 8 million Gypsies, was scheduled for Tuesday evening.

A European Parliament deputy from Hungary who is of Gypsy origin inspected camps in Rome on Saturday and in Naples on Sunday and deplored conditions.

Viktoria Mohacsi told reporters in Rome Monday that the conditions in Gypsy camps in Italy were the worst she had seen in Europe and that some camp residents have lived for as long as 50 years in Italy and are still illegal.

Rome's new, right-wing mayor, Gianni Alemanno, told reporters after visiting a Gypsy camp that he saw, "on the doorstep of Rome, images from the Third World, things beyond my imagination," ANSA reported.

Many of the shacks in the camps have no water or gas hookups.

He called for major effors "so that Rome doesn't become a city split in two," between the haves and the have-nots, ANSA said.

The Italian Radical party, which accompanied Mohacsi on her inspections, said it would seek parliamentary debate on treatment of Gypsies in Italy.

Last week, the European Roma Rights center sent a letter to several Italian government officials, including Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, decrying what it called anti-Roma "pogroms" in Naples. The Budapest-based advocacy group asked the Italian government to provide protection to all Roma in Italy and to investigate what happened in Naples.

There are some 7,000 Gypsies in Rome, a metropolis of 2.7 million people. Many Gypsies arrived from the Balkans in the early 1990s when ethnic conflict raged there, but other Roma families have been in Italy for generations and some trace ancestors in Italy to the 15th century.

4, rue Micheli-du-Crest, 1205 Genève


Geneva, 20th January 2009

Stop the raids against the Roma

Thursday 15th January 2009, 30 policemen in four police vans hunted
Roma throughout the city of Geneva. They arrested 27 people: 15 men,
7 women and 5 Children. This operation was driven by both police forces
and the state department of population. After a hearing at the police
station, the Roma were sent out of Switzerland by bus and condemned to
two years of interdiction of territory. This operation was undertaken
with the purpose of cleaning up Geneva's streets from beggars and

Mesemrom condemns the hatred on this European minority who has already
been a victim since the law on the interdiction of begging was put
into place a year ago, leading these people to be systematically
arrested, controlled and often asked to give in all their goods and
belongings to the police.

Mesemrom denounces this operation and considers it discriminatory
because it concerns a specific population suffering poverty and
discrimination. This action is totally against the laws of the Swiss
Constitution and the European Chart of Human Rights in the City, which
grants help and protection to vulnerable people without resources.

Mesemrom wishes to insist on the pacifist spirit of this minority and
doesn't understand why they have been treated this way by the State in
the name of security and public order.

Mesemrom claims that repression is not an acceptable answer to fight
misery and begging. The Rom are forced to beg due to their extreme
poverty, which is a result of years of discrimination. They keep on
being victims of this racist system in their own country and elsewhere.

Mesemrom supports the free circulation of persons. The Swiss vote
results of the 8th February doesn't concern begging in any way. But
the extension of the law of free circulation in Romania and Bulgaria
will help them get access to jobs. Some of them will have the
opportunity to work instead of begging to survive.

You can protest by sending a letter to the intention of Mr Laurent
Moutinot, a member of the Council of State of Geneva, in charge of the
department which includes among other services, justice and police,
and responsible for this operation.