Archive for the ‘civil society’ Category

Stopping the de-humanisation of refugees should be an emergency measure for the EU!

September 4, 2015

The refugee crisis going on these days shows us all something more important than the incapacity of the EU institutions and member states to deal with the situation. The refugee crisis shows us all why human rights are important! Human rights should guide primarily the interventions of EU institutions and member states to address the wave of migration these days.

In the last days, many politicians have taken a stand on how to deal with the wave of migration. Viktor Orban sees in refugees a major challenge for Europe Christianity and said that this is Germany’s problem (interesting enough the problem is happening on Hungarian territory!). Robert Fico wants also only Christian migrants in Slovakia and confessed that have failed to integrate “our Roma” and could not face another challenge in integrating refugees. Former Romanian President Basescu said that the situation is a national security issue and that no refugees should be allowed in Romania! Chancellor Merkel met French President to talk about refugees instead of seeking a common solution with all EU member states. Prime Minister Cameron thinks that the solution is to solve the situation in Syria but failed to say how. When pressured by other EU leaders Orban says that Hungarian Police enforces the law and nobody can leave Hungary without being registered. Everybody could see how Hungarian Police abused the refugees, lied to them and deny their access in public places (rail station and trains although the refugees had tickets!). He failed to say why the refugees has not been registered until his speech. Czech Police was even more creative: writing on refugees arms identification numbers! Nazi practices became the norm to treat the refugees.

In fact, de-humanisation of refugees is what is going on in the discourse of many politicians. Human beings are seen as a threat, an imminent one, as potential terrorists, as trouble-makers in our haven. EU leaders once again show that they do not know how to come to a common solution. Thus, each one of them can apply its own rules. Orban found a good way to bust his political support by manipulating and creating waves around a non-issue. But the problem is not the incapacity of EU to find a solution. The problem is that EU leaders do not know how to act to address the issue. Making it a security issue will not help for sure. They should go back to the constitutional treaty. There human rights is affirmed as a core value of the EU! Respecting the human rights of refugees is not only a moral imperative, a legal tool and a pathway to consistently address the issue but it is also a recognition of their humanity and, for that reason, they are endowed with certain rights that cannot be limited because of their citizenship. Respect for human rights means also to pay respect to the dignity of these people, to respect their options and provide opportunity to them so they have this freedom to chose where to settle. Of course, states could still limit some of the wishes of the refugees and should take care of the security. But there is no justification for the conditions in which the refugees are kept: no access to water, food, toilets and basic health care, abused physically and mentally, using nazi practices to transport them and to identify them, etc. Stopping the de-humanisation of refugees should be the emergency measure for the EU!


We shall overcome! Hope for Roma school desegregation

March 1, 2013

In the last four days, I participated in a workshop on strategic litigation on Roma school segregation organized by the Chance for Children Foundation (CFCF) in Budapest. CFCF is the organization that built strategic cases in Hungary to bring an end to different forms of Roma school segregation. Its most recent achievement is the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Horvath and Kiss vs. Hungary. Lilla Farkas, the lawyer that implements CFCF litigation strategy is to date – and I dare to say it – the most successful litigator on behalf of Roma!

The meeting was attended by other NGOs that litigated on behalf of Roma, especially in education: Equal Opportunities Association in Bulgaria (Daniela Mihailova), Poradna (Vanda Durbakova) Greek Helsinki Monitor (Theodoros Alexandridis), Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives (Iustina Ionescu) and other Roma and human rights activists from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. The Roma Education Fund, a constant supporter of school desegregation was represented by three country facilitators and other staff. The idea of the meeting was a result of a discussion Lilla and I had almost two years ago, during the interview for the book I edited. At that time, we thought that there is a need to bring together those that are doing Roma school segregation cases to share their experiences and learn from each other.

The meeting was not only an opportunity to exchange ideas and good practices in this field but also a source of inspiration and energy to carry on the fight against school segregation. Lilla and her team drafted a handbook for lawyers that includes country strategies on how to legally challenge segregation. In the upcoming days, the partners will fill in the handbook and in few weeks, it will come out as the first concrete result of this regional cooperation. The handbook will be translated in local languages in order to facilitate lawyers’ access to information. Another result of this meeting was the participants’ decision to cooperate closely on their cases and provide support and expertise to those challenging school segregation.

In the same time, another event organized by Romani Criss and the European Roma Rights Center in Bucharest lead to the establishment of a transnational network – the Desegregation and Action for Roma in Education-Network (DARE-Net) – aiming at analyzing practices and initiatives relating to Roma education and the desegregation of Roma children in schools with the support of academic institutions. This network covers Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Greece, Hungary and Romania and is supported by the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.  Criss and ERRC were vocal in promoting Roma school desegregation in Romania and elsewhere in Europe and their initiative will add force to their voices.

With these two regional initiatives, the Roma school desegregation seems to move ahead faster than anticipated!  It is my belief that without removing the structural factors that reproduce the subordinate status of Roma in the society -segregation being the first such factor- it is impossible to achieve significant progress in improving the life of Roma across Europe. These two initiatives come at a moment when populism and anti-gypsyism is growing in Europe and when concerns with equal opportunities in education are ignored by significant segments of the society. They bring hope to those that fight for human rights and for the children attending segregated educational facilities.

I wish many successes to both initiatives and, personally, I celebrate the fact that Roma school desegregation movement is getting stronger! We shall overcome…




Iulius Rostas's Blog

Roma, Civil Society, Romani movement and politics