AI launches Europe-wide campaign to end discrimination against Roma

Photo: Vojtěch Berger

Marking International Roma Day on Monday, Amnesty International has just launched a Europe-wide campaign entitled Human Rights Here, Roma Rights Now. It aims to end persisting discrimination and segregation that an estimated six million Roma face in many European countries, including the Czech Republic. Mark Martin, the head of Amnesty International’s Czech branch, explains what the campaign hopes to achieve.

Photo: CTK
We are looking to eliminate all forms of systematized discrimination against the Roma minority as far as we can. In particular, we are looking to eliminate discrimination against Roma children and their right to equal access to quality education.

“We are looking to end unfair and illegal forced eviction practices, and to eliminate racially, ethnically motivated violence throughout Europe.”

How does AI want to achieve these goals? There were some steps mentioned including pressure on the European Parliament and the European Commission – do you think this has the potential of achieving a breakthrough on these issues?

“We are looking at a variety of different techniques and trying to push this agenda forward. We are very obviously aware this is not a short-term project so we will be focusing on these issues for a long time to come I think.

“Some of the specific things we’ll be doing in terms of activism include supporting the International Roma Day which is going on today, creating various happenings and activities of the type that will take place in front of the European Parliament today. We will also be following up on our previous work in the area of education with ongoing participation in the Ministry of Education forum with regards to equal rights to education, and we will be working with other government and local organizations to ensure that the rights of people with regards to their housing are respected as well even in difficult situations around the country.”

Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio
The head of the Czech government’s agency for social inclusion recently warned that the number of the so-called ghettos, or socially excluded areas, rose from around 330 to over 400. Where do you see the biggest weaknesses of the government’s policies in this respect?

“What we are mostly interested in is making sure that the rights of the people living in these places are respected, so in the case they are already living there, they don’t have their human rights abused by either local municipalities or by extremist groups interested in harming them. So the basic human rights such as the right to education, the right to work, and so forth, need to be respected.

Then, clearly we are most interested in having the government work to reduce the level of segregation in these groups so that they become a more integral and integrated part of the mainstream society because to a large extent, excluding them in these localities has a very negative and marginalizing effect on the people who are living there.”