Anti-Roma racism focused on by report


THE GOVERNMENT needs to review its anti-discrimination laws to better protect the Roma community, which is facing high levels of racism and discrimination.

It should also train all public officials, civil servants and gardaí to refrain from discriminating against this group, according to a new report by the Oireachtas European Affairs Committee.

The report estimates 2,500-3,000 Roma are living in Ireland, and cites EU research which shows they face widespread discrimination. “The results of an EU-wide survey have shown that only 24 per cent of Irish people would be comfortable having a Roma person as their next-door neighbour and that only 6 per cent had Roma friends or acquaintances . . .” said Senator Terry Leyden, who wrote the report for the committee.

The report concludes the Roma face “irrational fear and prejudice” and condemns high-profile attacks on the Roma community in Belfast last June. “The BBC reported that several of the Roma women attacked in Belfast wanted to return to Romania, as they believed they would get better treatment there. The problem is that the attitudes against the Roma have been hardening in eastern Europe as much as in western Europe,” it says.

The report estimates there are eight to 10 million Roma living in Europe. It condemns recent racist attacks against the Roma in Hungary and the Czech Republic.

It says all public and law enforcement officials should be trained to refrain from discriminating against Roma and to apply anti-discrimination measures.

The report criticises comments made by Judge Aingeal Ní Chonduin, who said Roma raised their children to steal and were responsible for our “shops being robbed blind”. “Crime is a universal problem and it’s not only related to migrants,” wrote Mr Leyden.

It concludes there is a lack of adequate statistics on attacks on the Roma, but notes a “moderate to high rise” in hate crimes perpetrated in Ireland in 2006-2007.

It says the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 must be re-examined to ensure sanctions are used: “There has been no racist offences prosecuted in this State, and therefore racist motivation is not recognised and charged as such.”

The report recommends giving official recognition to “anti-gypsyism” as an independent form of racism, alongside anti-Semitism and xenophobia. “Ireland should undertake focused awareness-raising campaigns to confront anti-Romani racism, without stigmatising Roma.”

The report warns Roma are particularly exposed to high rates of poverty and unemployment, and largely operate in an informal economy. It recommends specifically targeting the Roma in social inclusion programmes to help combat these problems.

Key points

  • Roma should be specifically mentioned in social inclusion programmes
  • Recognise the existence of anti-Gypsyism as an independent form of racism alongside anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
  • Survey the Roma people living in Ireland to see if they have experienced racial attacks.
  • Train all categories of public officials, civil servants and law enforcement personnel to refrain from discriminating and apply anti-discrimination measures.
  • Review the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 and ensure legal sanctions are effective.
  • Review all existing legislation in the social inclusion area and assess its impact on the Roma.