Sunday, September 07, 2008

And speaking of chilling fascist portents: hey, yeah, Europe, let's single out a nationless ethnic group for fingerprinting, wicked idea.

From the EU Observer via Debi Crow:

Italy's plan to fingerprint Roma people has received a green light from the European Commission, with Brussels' experts suggesting that the controversial measures are not discriminatory or in breach of EU standards.

A commission spokesman told journalists on Thursday (4 September) that the practice proposed by Italian authorities earlier this year is only aimed at identifying persons "who cannot be identified in any other way" and excludes the collection of "data relating to ethnic origin or the religion of people."

The centre-right government of Silvio Berlusconi sparked protests from human rights organisations and several in the European Parliament after announcing its plan to fingerprint Roma people - including children - as part of a census of Roma camps.

Some critics of the move compared it to the policies of Benito Mussolini, the country's fascist leader during the Second World War...


Debs also linked to this petition, which is

"to be sent to a summit on the future of the Roma at the European Parliament on 16th September. Please sign it and spread word to everyone you know about it"

...In recent weeks, Romany people in Italy have been subjected to police registration, by means such as fingerprinting, and to forcible rehousing. The Italian government claims this is part of their efforts to control immigration but the actions smack of racism and are a gross violation of basic human rights.

In May 2008 rumours of an abduction of a baby girl by a Gypsy woman in Naples led to an outbreak of racist violence against Roma camps. The response by Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni to this was “that is what happens when gypsies steal babies”.

That this can happen in Europe in the 21st century, 53 years after the defeat of Nazism and Italian fascism is extremely worrying. On 10th July the European Parliament called the fingerprinting of Gypsies in Italy a clear act of racial discrimination and urged the authorities to stop it. The EU assembly said the measure is not supported by EU human rights treaties and that EU citizens of Roma, or Gypsy, origin must not be treated differently from others in Italy, who are not required to submit their fingerprints.

In Austria, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors and reports on the human rights situation in its 56 participating states, including Italy, also expressed serious reservations about Italy's handling of Gypsies.

The Roma suffered greatly in the Holocaust and I worry that the relative apathy towards the actions of the Italian Government, let alone to far right parties and those with far right sympathies across Europe, will give the far right more confidence to undertake more extreme actions that recall terrible memories of the 1930s and 40s. As history shows, if people and nations remain silent bystanders then fascism can take root and I think that a hard stand is required.

I am well aware that Italy, like many countries in Europe, is concerned about immigration, crime and so on, but am also keenly aware that treating the Roma as second class citizens is not an answer and is a fall-back to the less glorious days of Europe's recent history.

and a facebook community with updates.

ETA: and via Devious Diva, who's been tracking European and particularly Greek treatment of the Roma for some years, had this to say on what's happening in Italy:

Although, this post is based on events happening in Italy, attitudes towards the Roma is no different here or in the rest of Europe. They are probably the most openly discriminated against people in Europe.

Italy has begun fingerprinting the entire Roma population. The European parliament has “urged” the country to stop this racial profiling (rather than condemn the process altogether). Left-leaning newspapers, human rights groups and activists are outraged but world leaders have been silent on the subject...

...One recent newspaper survey found 68% of people wanted all Italy’s Gypsies expelled, whether or not they held Italian passports. Another poll said more than three-quarters of people want unauthorised camps demolished.

This attitude seems to be sanctioned and reinforced by some of the highest authorities in Italy.

Italy’s legal system has already indicated there is nothing to stop discrimination against Roma. In a ruling handed down earlier this year, but only recently reported, the country’s highest appeal court ruled in the case of six people accused of anti-Gypsy racial propaganda that it was acceptable to single out Roma on the basis that they are thieves.

...There was one particular event that prompted me to write about the racial profiling in Italy (as you know I don’t cover many stories from outside Greece). I had briefly seen on the CNN ticker a sentence about the drowning of two Roma girls in Naples. Then theriomorph sent me some links to the story.


From CNN

Italian newspapers, an archbishop and civil liberties campaigners expressed shock and revulsion on Monday after photographs were published of sunbathers apparently enjoying a day at the beach just meters from where the bodies of two drowned Roma girls were laid out on the sand.

...from the Independent, this article entitled The Picture that Shames Italy

It was the sort of tragedy that could happen on any beach. But what happened next has stunned Italy. The bodies of the two girls were laid on the sand; their sister and cousin were taken away by the police to identify and contact the parents. Some pious soul donated a couple of towels to preserve the most basic decencies. Then beach life resumed.

The indifference was taken as shocking proof that many Italians no longer have human feelings for the Roma, even though the communities have lived side by side for generations.

That is what I want to say about these latest events in Italy. It is the indifference that pains me so much about attitudes towards minorities. That we can ignore what happens in their communities because we barely see them as human. We see them as “a problem” that needs to be dealt with. I posted the other day about how labeling people as “illegals’ dehumanises them and makes it easier for us to turn a blind eye....

much more, go read.

The Roma (aka "Gypsies") are perennial targets and were particularly devastated during the Holocaust for similar reasons as the Jews were: primarily, peoples without a nation in an era of nationalism.

Which is not to say that anti-Semitism is totally dead, either, of course, even now that "we" -do- have a nation-state of our very own, but...well, that's another post.

Also see (thanks for the link, DD) Roma Rights Network.


Anonymous said...

Thanks belle x

Brown Shoes said...

I'd say this shows that Italy, at least, never learned anything from past mistakes, but they and most of Europe except for Germany have been in denial over...well, the last time this happened.

bint alshamsa said...

Devious Diva has been writing about the persecution of the Roma in Greece for several years now. You might be interested in checking her out if you haven't already.

belledame222 said...

I know, Bint, and I was actually about to head over there to see what she had on this. think I'd dropped a link to her place at Debs' (who did her thesis on the Roma, I think?) first time I'd linked anything on them on this blog, meant to for a while.

Roland Hulme said...

Wow, you're totally out of touch with what Europe's really like.

The EU is clamping down on EVERYTHING. My father just sent me an article about plans to regulate blogging as they claim "unlicensed blogs are polluting cyberspace with misinformation and malicious intent."

(quoted from the Telegraph.)

Recent Court of Justice cases revealed that Europeans have no right against self incrimination and despite fights against it, we'll all have biometric ID cards within a decade.

As for gypsies? I've traveled all across Europe and seen all sorts of intolerance and bigotry against 'travelers' (yeah, do some research and you'll find out the 'gypsy' movement is as much made up of regular folks as dusky ethnic Romas.)

In some ways, I share your anger at a particular group being targeted. In another, I've seen time and time again how crime waves of robbery, violence and dog theft (they love stealing dogs) occurs whenever travelers set up camp.

In some ways I admire them - the freedom from the oppressive slavery of mortgage/job/marriage. But the fact is, a lot (I think most, but I won't say that in case you jump on your high horse) supplement their $0 income by petty crime and benefit fraud.

Plus, watching poor kids live in dirt and poverty - most of them unable to read because they have no schooling and their parents don't bother teaching them, is really, really sad.

The gypsy lifestyle might just be incompatible with the 21st century. What are we going to do? Put them in a reserve?

Daisy said...

Wow, you're totally out of touch with what Europe's really like.

And you are out of touch with American concepts of freedom and equality. (You should be ashamed of yourself, forcing a lefty like me to talk like a patriot, but hey, sometimes you gotta do it.)

Americans do not consider it OUR JOB or OUR PLACE to legally sanction other people's lifestyles, whether they are of the 21st century or not, whether we like them or not. We have Amish, Native American and Rainbow Tribespeople in America, all of whom choose to live off the land or without electicity; we have mafioso-oriented groups and heavily-armed street-gangs, etc. We only step in when people actively break the law, not because they identify with a certain group. For every gang-banger, there is a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband, mother, father, sister, brother or child of that gang-banger that does NOT deserve to be persecuted for their simple association with this person. THAT IS DISCRIMINATION, which was the whole reason people of European extraction originally migrated to America, at least, my family, who were systematically being starved by England for the crime of being Catholic.

So, please do not preach. It doesn't go over too well. ;)

In another, I've seen time and time again how crime waves of robbery, violence and dog theft (they love stealing dogs) occurs whenever travelers set up camp.

So, too lazy to employ law enforcement? Doesn't the EU have the equivalent of the FBI? If not, maybe you need to join the 21st century.

But the fact is, a lot (I think most, but I won't say that in case you jump on your high horse) supplement their $0 income by petty crime and benefit fraud.

Do you have a link with these figures, or did you pull em out of your ass?

Chances are, the travelers are also selling hashish or sex or stolen cars or something else of value, so the locals are getting something they want out of the travelers, whilst openly claiming they get nothing.

In America, we call this the free market. The first rule of the free market is SUPPLY AND DEMAND, and a thing (ANY THING) can not continue to exist unless it benefits someone financially or provides goods and services sought by others. This means, you know, they must be SELLING something, too. (IF they are indeed living off theft alone, I'd say your law enforcement really sucks bigtime.)

Plus, watching poor kids live in dirt and poverty - most of them unable to read because they have no schooling and their parents don't bother teaching them, is really, really sad.

So, no compulsory education laws in Europe? Damn, and I thought you folks were supposed to be the forerunners of Western Civ, and all like that!

No Dept of Children's Services? No AFDC or welfare? Wow. Maybe you should turn your attention to establishing basic rights for everyone so that all children are protected, instead of going after the rights of individuals, huh?

The gypsy lifestyle might just be incompatible with the 21st century. What are we going to do? Put them in a reserve?

You know we have "Irish travelers" here too, yes? And this has never been necessary. We also have street-gangs who are armed with semi-automatic weapons, etc. And still, it has never been necessary. And you guys can't deal with a ragtag group of gypsies? That is damn pathetic.

I'd say if you folks can't deal with this, you have inferior government and law enforcement, compounded with a profound disrespect for individual rights. Maybe you'd better get to work joining the 21 st century, otherwise, this group will just be the first of a long line of groups who are systematically stripped of their civil rights. And you could be next.

Wake up.

Philomela said...

while I dont live in mainland europe I do live in the UK so:

Firtsly the telegraph is scarily right wing and I'm not sure I would belive that reprt without other sources.

Secondly the reason travelers children are often uneucated is because governments refuse them schooling as they also refuse them healthcare and benifits.

traveleres are treated like shit by pretty much all mainstream society why should they have any respect for it?

Anonymous said...

Roland --

I am American so I can't claim to have on-the-ground experience in Europe, but I have been following Devious Diva's work about the Roma for some time now. Here's a link to the main series:

You act as if it's the fault of parents alone that children aren't educated. When children are actively kept out of public schools and there is almost no funding for segregated Roma schools, how are the children supposed to get educated?

You also say you "admire" the Roma for their carefree lifestyle, but have you ever considered that they might be denied access to things like mortgages because of discrimination. Also, as DD shows with the Roma population in Greece, whenever they DO try to set up a stable life, they're evicted.

Roland Hulme said...

Daisy, you dimwit. THAT'S THE POINT I WAS MAKING.

Jeeeze, Louise.

Belle had made some throwaway comment about how wonderful modern European life was and I just wanted to give her a clue re: no, it's not all sunshine and roses. The European Union isn't a democracy and although we Euros love to spend our time peering down with disdain at the United States, America continues to kick our asses with constitutionally protected rights that we still don't have.

You have TOTALLY missed the point of my comment.

As for crime figures when travelers arrive? Anecdotal - we had a big lot of them stay in camp grounds near Winchester and a local policeman told me the crime rate shoots up when they're there.

Emily - your comments are delicious:

" funding for segregated Roma schools."

No, there shouldn't be public funding for segregated schools. Roma kids should go to the same schools as everybody else, surely?

"...have you ever considered that they might be denied access to things like mortgages because of discrimination."

I was talking about the nomadic 'travelers' who CHOOSE to wander from campground to campground, not people of ethnicities who have houses, jobs and are part of regular 'established society.' If Romas with jobs, houses and all that malarky are being descriminated against, that's shocking and wrong.

The travelers, on the other hand, with no fixed abode or employment and who wander from campground to campground (and very few of the ones in England are actually Roma) shouldn't even be applying for mortgages in the first place!

Why do you need a mortgage if you don't own property?

Why should you expect to be given a mortgage if you have no fixed abode? If people with poor credit ratings get denied mortages, why is it discrimination if people with no credit rating - who deliberatly 'opt out' of the credit system - get denied mortgages the same way?

Anonymous said...

Roland, you're being an arse.

First up, you're derailing the thread, which is clearly about what happens to ethnic Roma and NOT about travellers. Roma folks have been coming to the UK from Eastern Europe as asylum seekers for the past 5 to 10 years, not seeking to be "travellers" but seeking to be free of persecution for their ethnic origins. This is more of that same persecution happening.

Secondly, you're not actually a current resident of Europe yourself, so why you should deem yourself fit to tell us all what it's like here, I don't know! You seem to be gloriously unaware of a document called the European Convention on Human Rights, which is now a part of the British Constitution thanks to the Human Rights Act 1997, and is legally binding on all member states of the European Union anyway, thanks to the Treaty of Rome. This guarantees the right of freedom of speech, so the EU simply can't restrict blogging in the way that you suggest.

That the EU Commission seems not to regard the Roma folks as deserving of those rights is alarming, in much the same way as it would be alarming if there were indications that SCOTUS were planning to rescind human rights from a given ethnic group (or, perhaps more immediate to the current situation as I understand it, from women! - I'm thinking of the wrangling over Roe vs. Wade with that).

Incidentally, the problems supposedly caused by travellers could easily be solved by providing properly for them - but instead, travellers are deemed to be a nuisance, and time and again the tactic with dealing with nuisances has been to try to make things uncomfortable for them until they stop being nuisances. Which has, time and again, proved to be a positive feedback loop...

Travellers have always been outcasts, viewed with deep suspicion by settled folks; it's nothing new, the sorts of stories you tell, they've been around for centuries!

CrackerLilo said...

I took some of these links earlier today. The cause needs to be spread, totally. Thanks, Debs, for beating the drum loud enough for others to hear. Thanks, Belle, for the comprehensive listing of links.

And Daisy, I cannot add or subtract a thing from your comment.

Roland Hulme said...

Snowdropexplodes - Ah, yes, the wonderful European Constitution - a document that was passed in the UK absolutely undemocratically by his unelected highness Sir Gordon of Brown - as he knew the good plebs of Britain would never stand for it.

Thank God for the Irish - they're the only ones who still think the voters are good for making decisions these days.

belledame222 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
belledame222 said...

been offline all day yesterday.

Roland: first of all, do not refer to my friends and regular commenters as "dimwit."

Second: yes to a number of points already made, including, but not limited to, the one about your acting like an arse.

I don't know if you're aware of this, but every single comment you've made here, or at least the last few, since you decided to stick around and actually engage--I am going with the supposition that that was your decision, on good faith--has started off with something that essentially comes off as,

"Aren't -you- stupid? I-know-something-you-don't-knooooowwww"

It's -really- offputting. Ever before getting to the actual content. So you know.

This would be true even if I had a clue which throwaway comment of mine where I said Europe was all sunshine and roses you are referring to.

Finally: you say:

"What are we going to do?"

Who is this we to whom you refer, exactly? Think carefully.

belledame222 said...

Secondly, you're not actually a current resident of Europe yourself, so why you should deem yourself fit to tell us all what it's like here, I don't know!

"My dad says there are a lot of repressive people in Europe."

Roland Hulme said...

Hi Belle!

You're right - I have started off several of my comments in a rather aggressive fashion. In mitigation, I'd like to say that your posts themselves aren't exactly non-confrontational!

Although the one about Pup John Paul was cute.

Seriously, you eff and blind and call people stupid in your posts and comments (like the one about that daft cartoon) so I don't see why you get on your high horse when I come in all guns blazing.

Secondly - "My dad says there are a lot of repressive people in Europe."

That puts you in exactly the same dimwit camp as snowdropexplodes (and come on, if she calsl me an arse, I can call her a dimwit.)

I currently live in America - sure.

But I was born and raised in Europe, lived there for 29 years, up until a year ago, speak fluent French and half decent German, have visited/lived in/worked in several EU countries (I'm guessing more than some/all of the commentators here (even the Euro ones))

So I think I'm perfectly entitled to give my opinion of Europe.

belledame222 said...

I see; so basically, this is a little white gauntlet?

Roland, let me explain something to you. I am frequently an asshole on the Internet. I make no bones about that whatsoever. This does not let you off the hook for being a tiresome prat, however.

1) tu fucking quoque still makes you an asshole.

2) more to the point, this is my space.

3) and among my very few rules are: you need to be a -lot- more entertaining than you've been if you're going the troll route.

4) can you play "Melancholy Baby?"

Roland Hulme said...

Not entertaining? Meeeeow.

I deny all charges. I've still managed to get your knickers in a twist, haven't I? Even if I'm not entertaining, that surely is.

As for the old "this is my space" argument - I hadn't got you pegged as one of those 'I claim to believe in free speech, but viciously moderate my blog' types.

I just disagree with your sunshine and rainbows opinion of Europe (admittedly, I disagreed rather rudely.)

belledame222 said...

Obviously -you- consider it entertaining; that is hardly relevant. See above re: my space. And I haven't moderated you; that comes if/when I decide you've bored me thoroughly enough I need to bother. Now: can you or can't you?

and where, again, exactly is this "sunshine and rainbows" business?

Anonymous said...

Roland --

Of course there SHOULDN'T be funding for segregated schools, but if that's the ONLY resource that the children have access to --

Oh, you know what, I'm not even going to bother. You're not worth it.

belledame222 said...

btw, SDE is a "him."

Roland Hulme said...

NOW I'm finally understanding what you're bleating about (Belle, I'd recommend having some basic wiki links in your convoluted posts. It's not easy for new readers to get the gyst of thing the pace you go.)

"In Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, many Roma children have been channeled into all-Roma schools that offer inferior quality education and are sometimes in poor physical condition, or into segregated all-Roma or predominantly Roma classes within mixed schools."

DAMN. Yes, that's UTTERLY wrong and shameful and it's this kind of rubbish that makes me wonder why eastern europe was rushed into the EU. Oh, wait, political expediancy by the elite, unaccountable, undemocratically elected European commission.

"On July 3, 2008 it was announced that Italy had started fingerprinting their Roma populations, despite accusations of racism by human rights advocates and international organizations. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told parliament the move was needed to fight crime and identify illegal immigrants for expulsion, but also to improve the lives of those legally living in the makeshift, often unsanitary camps."

Listen, in America I can get arrested if I'm out walking the streets and don't have any ID on me (in New York, at least.) As a LEGAL immigrant, I also have my fingerprints on file with the FBI and immigration and in a nationwise police database.

You know what? That's fair enough. Is it racist? Am I being singled out because I'm am immigrant? NO and YES.

Since everybody in Europe is soon going to have a mandatory ID card with biometric data on it, why is it such a big deal? If the rest of the EU has to have their records and data on file, why do people have the right to 'opt out?'

belledame222 said...

I'd recommend having some basic wiki links in your convoluted posts. It's not easy for new readers to get the gyst of thing the pace you go.

YOu mean like the Wiki link that's hyperlinked from "Roma?" still, noted.

and, no, Roland, no one's opting out; the point is, upcoming ID card with biometric data or not, and yes, we can agree that the mandatory ID thing is creepy, fact is, right now the Roma -are- being singled out, and not in a good way. They don't get "special rights." They're being scapegoated. Again.

belledame222 said...

and while you -can- get arrested theoretically, Roland, fact is, -you're- not who they're looking for, or likely to randomly arrest, and I think you know it, too. Still, yes, this shit -could- be applied to anyone, which is fucking scary; all the more reason to become concerned with what's happening to the people who're basically canaries in the coal mine, wouldn't you say?

Roland Hulme said...

Oh God, I was automatically going to post that Martin Niemoller poem, which means that you win, Belle. Well played.

I must have missed that wiki link. Erm. Ooops?