Thank you, Eurochild.
On 9 June 2008, Italian media reported that a settlement of around 100 Romanian Roma in Catania, Sicily, had been attacked and burned to the ground. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni (today leader of the extremist party Lega Nord) reportedly downplayed the attacks, stating: „As for vigilante attacks on immigrants, that is what happens when Gypsies steal babies, or when Romanians commit sexual violence.”
On 25 June of the same year, Maroni announced the intention of the Italian government to conduct a „census” of all „nomads” in Italy. On 28 June, Maroni revealed a plan for fingerprinting all Roma residents in camps, including children, insisting that this plan would solve problems of inadequate housing and rising crime rates in Italy. The Italian government and Roberto Maroni were blasted for the idea of fingerprinting Roma children by UNICEF, the Council of Europe and the European Commission, and parallels were drawn with the census of the Jews conducted by Mussolini’s fascist regime in 1938.
February 2009 saw a repetition of earlier events when a number of violent incidents in Italy triggered a further outburst of racist and hate speech in the Italian media and from politicians targeting Romanians in general and Romanians of Roma origins specifically.
In recent weeks (October – November 2013) we have seen a number of scandals involving Roma children. In Greece and Ireland, children have been subjected to genetic testing simply because they look too fair-skinned to be Roma; this treatment reveals another more disturbing and long-held European prejudice; the idea that Roma steal children. Some of the worst policies against Roma children were implemented by the Italy and many Human Rights bodies found the situation in Roma camps to be despicable.
The European Union considers that Roma are the most discriminated-against ethnic minority in Europe. Both the European Commission and the Council of Europe have made clear the fact that Roma children are particularly vulnerable. On paper, Roma involvement in the European Union is high on the agendas of all institutions.
From 13 – 15 November 2013 Eurochild, the biggest European network dealing with children’s rights, will run a conference on child participation in Italy. No Roma experts seem to have been invited and nothing in the conference agenda indicates that the conference will include discussion on Roma children.
Roberto Maroni is one of the invited speakers for this conference, and will likely take part in the closing panel.
Eurochild leadership has been involved in the activities of the European Roma Platform, suggesting that they are aware of the particular vulnerability of Roma children. European networks in general have played a significant and not always deserved role in most of the relevant Roma events in the past.
We, the undersigned, are deeply worried about these seemingly contradictory signals from Eurochild and what seem to be a practice for EU networks to ignore Roma expertise and Roma issues. We would like to know why the issue of Roma children has been neglected on this conference programme, and why Roberto Maroni was considered a suitable speaker. We recommend that the board of Eurochild raise the issues detailed here at their next board meeting. Until then we can just say:
Way to go, Eurochild!
Daniel La Para
If you want to join us please send us a message at [email protected] or send directly a message to the president of Eurochild at [email protected]mail.datanet.hu and their secretary general at jana.hainsworth@Eurochild.org
For more details please see the previous posting