11 December 2012
Once they were travelling pedlars and tradesman. Now they usually live in frightful conditions on the fringes of our cities and will take any work going. The Roma, a people of Indian descent numbering some 15 million souls worldwide (around half of whom live in Europe), remain socially marginalized and deprived of even the most rudimentary rights —to education, to equality before the law, to inclusion on the electoral roll, to institutional representation. The vicious circle of marginalization is leading them into increasingly violent social clashes, as well as perpetuating stereotypes and racist behaviours.
Greece has witnessed countless attempts on the part of local communities to eject Roma from camps or to refuse Roma children entry to the educational system, and the Greek state waited until 1996 to draw up its first programmes designed to address this situation. Nothing palpable has been achieved to date, however, and international human rights watchdogs continue to draw attention to a state of affairs which cannot be tolerated in a European country.
The first research and educational programmes have, however, clearly undermined the traditional stereotypes concerning the Roma’s view on their social inclusion. In reality, most of the roughly 250,000 Roma who live in Greece (there are no exact figures) —who, it should be noted, do not form a homogeneous group— no longer live a nomadic life and reside in the same camps for decades at a time.
Experts from Greece and abroad will shed light on various aspects of this issue at a time when the economic crisis has led to increased state persecution — in Hungary, for example, and in France, which has applied a number of dubious policies. While there may no longer be states which officially espouse theories of racial inferiority, as some did into the nineteen seventies, and while it has been over 70 years since hundreds of thousands of Roma were liquidated in concentration camps, there are still public bodies in Europe today which, when they choose to render our now invisible fellow citizens institutionally visible, do so with other aims in mind...
Roma | Our "invisible" fellow citizens: Watch the conversation on video
Nikos Vittis: Ombudsman for the Roma
Soula Mitakidou: Assistant Professor, Department of Public Education, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Valeriu Nicolae: Founder and president of the Policy Centre for Roma and Minorities in Bucharest
Christos Carras: Executive Director and Head of Music Department, Onassis Cultural Centre
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