April 8th is the International Roms’ Day (Journée Internationale des Roms). The Rom community is about 12million people, forming thus the biggest minority of Europe. Originating from the Indian subcontinent and installed in Eastern Europe since the Middle-Age, they have been so far, throughout History, among the most persecuted people. Today, though we learn in our schools that they were genocided under the third Reich, there seems to be almost no awareness among our ‘sedentary’ population on how much discrimination and racism are still extremely strong towards Roms.
Indeed, there is no racism as common as the racism towards Roms. As a Muslim Arab living in Europe, I know how it is to be in a group sometimes targeted by hatred and misconceptions; but I also know that nothing extremely dramatic could happen to us, that there is powerful associations to fight for our rights, that as a part of the sedentary society, our economical, mediatic and political weight is big enough to act as a protecting shield for us, to guarantee us a minimum of respect. Roms not having this same situation, they seem to be targeted by everybody and from everywhere without anything able to counter efficiently.
When in France the authorities demolish their camps, when in Italy they are victims of the neo-nazi delinquent violence, when in Greece the police itself attacks them, when in Germany the government funds repatriation campaigns, when in Sweden 80% of Roms adults are unemployed, when in Romania and Bulgary they are subject to massive and institutional persecution, when in Switzerland the policemen write down the word “beggar”by hand in their passeports… do we need more to prove how far can go the democratic human-rights-friendly european societies with their own minorities? There is barely only in South of Spain that Roms and non-Roms seem to coexist in a mutual respect.
The most shocking fact here is certainly how “unshocked” the civil society is about this discrimination and persecution of Roms. After all, the perpetuation generation after generation of these behaviours wouldn’t be possible if a majority of Europeans would not have been that deeply hatefull towards Roms. Roms are generally accused by non-Roms to be thiefs, beggars, tricky, etc. As a consequence, the establishment make laws and (official and unofficial) procedures such as Roms can’t benefit from their full rights, nor reach a state of sustainable and satisfactory interaction with the non-Rom society.
Practically saying, everything is done for unallowing them to access work market, decent housing and freedom of undertaking their traditional lucrative activities; such a situation in itself would be already enough to justify much more criminality than what we are currently witnessing, but instead of being somehow aware of this and remedy to the problem, we see that an increasing repression on Roms is not only agreed by civil society, but also encouraged, for people do not want to be bothered in having to bear the visible presence of those they discriminate (but besides this, of course, they have no problem in copying without any compensation their music and other artistic techniques). How far do we want to let this happen before to react?