The Persecution of the Roma in East-Central Europe
- Published: Wednesday, 26 September 2012 01:00
Kathleen F. Hall – Canada
Roma mothers with their children
For the past two years I have been involved with educational research issues centered on Roma (Gypsy) children. Throughout this period I have gained knowledge and insights into Roma history, culture, and traditions. I have also observed the increasing persecution mounting against the Roma in east-central Europe under changing political and economic climates. The Roma have now become the scapegoats for the financial woes of many of these countries and blatant discrimination aimed at eradicating the Roma people and their culture seems to be part of the political agenda. As a humanitarian and Theosophist, I am compelled to advocate for the rights of the Roma people and to work towards educating North Americans about the life threatening and growing persecution that is taking place in many east-central European countries. Of grave concern is the safety of families whose lives are endangered, and those who struggle to survive under the crippling effects of rampant poverty.
The Roma are amongst the most persecuted people on earth. They are also the largest minority in the European Union with a population of seven to fifteen million (Greenberg, 2010). Most Roma living in the EU face racial, structural, and social discrimination, as well as multiple discriminations on the basis of gender, age, disability, and sexuality (Toth, 2010). The Roma suffer extreme poverty as many have no chance of employment. They often have to live in substandard and unsafe housing in mahalas (quarters or neighbourhoods) within dilapidated, pieced together shelters without water, electricity, or sewage. They usually have no access to medical care, and Roma children are frequently denied a proper education. Many Roma children are placed in segregated schools, or classes for the mentally challenged, and are given a sub-standard education if any at all (Greenberg, 2010).