Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

Done Romanies?

East European Romany asylum seekers face discrimination in their own countries amounting to internationally agreed levels of persecution, the Refugee Council have warned.


And interviews with Roma 'gypsy' refugees in Dover reveal abuse has increased since media exposure of their arrival in Britain. "There was no problem until the publicity and the cameras came here," said Miro, who has been in Britain for eight months.

Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the Refugee Council, told the charity's annual general meeting that 'lies in the newspapers' leading to abuse paralledl events in their own countries.

According to a briefing note released by the Council the current Slovak president, Vladimir Meciar said in 1993: "It is necessary to curtail the extended reproduction of (this) socially unadaptable and mentally backward population.'

In September this year the president suggested sending the country's half million Hungarian population to Hungary. In 1997 the US State Department reported: "Skinhead violence against Roma was a serious and growing problem."
In Dover Roma refugees were warned in letters from the police to stay indoors the evening before a National Front march on November 15. On the Saturday of the march they were warned to stay out of Dover town centre altogether.

Speaking at the Refugee Council's annual general meeting Mr Hardwick said: "Imagine what it feels like. You've seen this before back home - increasing virulent media attacks followed by extremist violence culminating in a series of racially motivated killings of Roma people.
"Now in England you and your children are abused on the streets, shops refuse to serve you and the newspapers are full of lies. And then you hear the skinheads are marching in Dover too."
He added that 130 Roma had tried to run away helped by English Roma. They spent two days driving around Southern England looking for somewhere to hide. Some ended up at the Refugee Council, who had to fend off abuse from passengers as they brought them train tickets back to Dover.

Recounting their treatment in Dover Miro said: "We got told to go home. When we went into a corner shop two guys came in shouting at us. Some people started picking on us, calling us blacks and gypsies. "We thought that Britain was a safe country and everyone was free whatever the colour of their skin."

According to the US state department so far this year three Roma have died as a result of skinhead attacks in Slovakia; last year a father and son were stabbed, the father fatally, in a racist attack; and a house was set on fire killng one man and injuring three other Roma.
In the Czech Republic 45 per cent of peope favoured 'moving the Roma out of the Czech Republic if possible', the US report said. Mr Hardwick also said there was a "culture of disbelief" in the immigration service.

In 1990 85 per cent of asylum applicants were allowed to stay, in 1996 80 per cent were refused. But he warned delegates their argument would be weakened unless they accepted that not every application for asylum was genuine. "Too often we allow our position to be characterised as naively believing that all asylum seekers have a well founded claim that everyone who applies for asylum is a torture victim," he said. "I think this perception does our argument a great deal of disservice."

He added that asylum seekers cover a spectrum, with clear cut cases at one end and obvious fraud and abuse at the other. In the middle was a grey area where desperation was real but argument could be made over qualification for refugee status.
"It's in this area we would like to see a much more generous approach," he said.