Roma, Traveller, and socialist activists demonstrated outside the Czech and Slovakian embassies in Kensington on Tuesday 13 November against the policy of “special schools” for Roma children in these countries.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has called the schools “Educational Apartheid”.
The schools, which are invariably inferior and chronically underfunded, have continued to exist in defiance of a ECHR ruling, and illustrate the rising tide of anti-Roma persecution across the former Eastern Bloc.
One activist told Solidarity: “I’ve been involved in Roma solidarity for over fifty years, and the level of persecution is greater now than it was in the 1960s”. Another said that, in attempting to secure visas for gypsies in Slovakia she had been told by embassy staff that “there are too many of them in our country already.”
Combined with long standing prejudice against Roma people, a growth in the politics of cultural nationalism in response to globalisation has led to the identification of the Roma as an alien element within the population. This has been especially marked in Hungary, with the rise of the nationalist right, and Bulgaria, to which the Roma journalist Toma Nikolaev Mladenov faces extradition from the UK for alleged “disorderly conduct” in a police station (in which he was banned from speaking to his wife in his own language). A European arrest warrant was issued after he took part in a demonstration to mark Roma Nation Day.
Another activist said: “There are good organised anti-fascists across Eastern Europe, but in concentrating on the uniformed far-right, they have turned something of a blind eye to the more common prejudice against the Roma.”
The Traveller Solidarity Network and the 8 April Movement aim to further the links between activists across the continent and build Europe-wide Roma solidarity.