Today is World Roma Day. As usual, very little has been written about it. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the responsibility I feel to keep the Roma communities here in Athens on the radar.
So I’m asking every single one of you who reads this post to do one of the following things today:
Read The Roma Series. If you have already read it, please visit one of the Roma sites in my blogroll
Rip off one of the Roma photographs from my blog or find one through a google search and post it to your blog, facebook, twitter etc or email it with a few words. I am donating my photographs for today so there is no need for credit. Seriously.
Tell a friend, family member or total stranger that it’s International Roma Day.
In his message on International Roma Day, the European Roma and Travellers Forum’s President, Mr. Rudko Kawczynski, called for “collective responsibility to end anti-Gypsyism in Europe’.
Unfortunately, we still see racial profiling in law, public officials and politicians able to make prejudiced remarks without risk of rebuke, the victimisation of Roma women through harassment, para-military attacks against members of the Roma community, strong anti-Roma feelings spreading throughout EU countries… These situations are not coincidental.
Mr. Kawczynski recalled that the struggle to eliminate these situations must confront the current economic and social policies that perpetuate the systematic barriers and racial injustice in our workplaces, educational and social institutions.
This means that we must redouble our efforts in eliminating the anti-Gypsyism and discrimination that are so deeply embedded in the roots of many conflicts and pose risks to international peace and security and in pushing for greater equality and justice for all.
Roma need to be able to find jobs and housing and to receive health, education and other services without discrimination and harassment, and they need to feel welcome in our communities. These are very much human rights concerns.
We take this opportunity to pay tribute to those who have fought, and continue to fight – despite the hardship and sacrifice involved – for equality and the right of all people to live with respect and dignity. The struggle to break down prejudice towards Roma and Travellers and to eliminate discrimination is integral to the struggle for social justice and a better world, which is the responsibility of us all.
There are enormous challenges ahead in the quest for equal opportunities for all – from achieving more effective coordination and mobilisation of resources at international level, to building better capacity at national and local levels. All of us can play a part in raising awareness of these challenges; all of us can play our part in overcoming them.
Remember and do not forget that the Roma are still among the most discriminated against and invisible people across the globe.
Roma housing problem persists
Most of the 300,000 Roma living in Greece are no longer nomads, with half owning their own land, but entire families continue to live in squalid conditions, recent research has shown.
Thanks to a law granting mortgage loans to Roma at favorable rates, nearly two-thirds of Greece’s Roma citizens have come to own their places of residence, chiefly prefabricated buildings or shacks. Most of these Roma are also registered as citizens in their municipalities and have police identification cards.
But their quality of life remains substandard, according to experts who addressed a Panhellenic congress about the national Roma population in Thessaloniki over the weekend.
According to the results of a study revealed at the congress, most Greek Roma do not have access to drinking water, a third do not have the luxury of hot water and half have to make do without electricity.
According to Makis Botis, the president of the National Roma Federation, around 800 Roma families have a housing problem. In some cases, as in the Roma settlement near Komotini, the authorities have not carried out a scheduled relocation. In the case of the settlement at Tyrnavos in Thessaly, the authorities never got around to creating the necessary infrastructure such as water and electricity connections. «Entire families are living in shacks made of plastic and sheet metal, surrounded by filth and rats,» Botis remarked.
Another serious problem is that of unemployment, which has risen among the Roma population since the closure of three street markets in Thessaloniki and Kavala in 2005. A sharp increase in the number of Roma becoming addicted to drugs is linked to joblessness. According to the Organization Against Drugs (OKANA), 560 are on waiting lists for rehabilitation programs in northern Greece.