2003, Roma

The Roma in Central and Eastern Europe Today

The Roma in Central and Eastern Europe Today. An Appalling Situation

Richard Crowson

For the last three and a half years I have been working with the Roma in the Czech Republic, and my eyes have been opened to an extent I would never have believed possible.

The circumstances of the Roma in Central and Eastern Europe today are absolutely appalling. One basic aspect of their plight is that they are readily distiguishable by their colour, and have thus provided an easy target for persecution over the centuries. They were targeted for genocide persecuted by the Nazis; at the end of the Second World War there was not a single Roma left in the Czech lands; all those there today are recent immigrants, mainly from Slovakia. Today throughout Central and Eastern Europe they are subject to overt discrimination, exacerbated in a context of growing right-wing nationalism: far-right groups explicitly target them. They are routinely excluded from cafes, swimming pools, dance halls. Most of the countries concerned have passed anti-discriminatory legislation, in line with EU norms; but these laws are routinely ignored as far as the Roma are concerned.

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