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Europe: Time to Drop the Roma Myths | Human Rights Watch

Europe: Time to Drop the Roma Myths | Human Rights Watch

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Published by bgeller4936
Racism against Roma in Europe
Racism against Roma in Europe

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Published by: bgeller4936 on Dec 10, 2013
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03/16/2014

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Europe: Time to Drop the Roma Myths | Human Rights Watch
 When I was growing up in Greece, my grandparents often told me that if I didn’t eat my food, they wouldcall the Gypsies to take me away. Sadly, the old myths about Roma snatching babies were revived afterpolice took a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl named Maria into custody in a Roma settlement inFarsala, central Greece, on October 16.The headlines in the Greek newspapers said it all: “Roma snatch babies!” “The DNA ‘spoke’: The 4-year-old found in a Romani settlement is not a Gypsy,” “Amber Alert: Dangerous Roma circuit snatch babies!!!”But the media have not been alone in using stigmatizing language against Roma. Politicians have joined intoo.Roma face persistent discrimination across Europe. A European Union Fundamental Rights Agency survey  published in 2012 showed destitution and social exclusion among Roma in 11 European Unioncountries, with high levels of unemployment (over 66 percent) and low levels of secondary schoolgraduation (around 15 percent).Segregation of Roma children in schools is an enduring problem in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, as well as Greece, while parents in Italy regularly protest when there are “too many” Roma children inclasses. Roma often live in substandard, segregated housing, and face forced evictions without adequatealternative housing options.Societal violence and police harassment are part of life for European Roma, including children. Maria waspicked up by police during a sweep operation of the Roma settlement in Farsala, part of a  broader policeoperation across Greece involving unlawful and discriminatory ethnic profiling.In the first nine months of 2013, Greek police conducted 1,131 operations in Roma camps throughout thecountry, during which 19,067 people were temporarily detained for further checks and 1,305 weresubsequently arrested on charges of having committed an offense. The police said they will step up theiractivities in Roma settlements in the coming months.The Roma couple found with Maria were charged with abduction after DNA tests showed that they werenot her biological parents. But DNA tests on a Bulgarian Roma couple showed they are Maria’s parents,meaning that she is Roma. Maria’s Bulgarian mother admits she left her child in Greece, although heraccount differs from the Greek couple’s.The anti-Roma stereotype knows no borders, and the story led to worldwide reports portraying Roma aschild-abductors, child-exploiters and criminals.

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