Europe's most hated minority

From The Local:

For two teenage Roma sisters, life has turned into a nightmare since they were expelled from Germany, the only home they had ever known, and forced to settle in Kosovo, a country they had never seen.

"I feel like I am in prison. I do not go out of the yard," said 13-year-old Bukurije Berisha in fluent German as she pointed to the high walls surrounding her dilapidated house. "I still hope I will wake up and see it was a bad dream."

The girls were born after their parents gained asylum in Germany in 1993, fleeing a brutal crackdown on Kosovo by the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.They speak no Albanian, the dominant language in Kosovo, and only a bit of their parents' native Roma tongue.

But last December, they landed with their parents and five brothers and sisters in a poor Roma settlement with filthy, narrow streets on the edge of the western Kosovo town of Pec. The Berishas are among some 14,000 Kosovars - 10,000 of them Roma - to be returned from Germany under a bilateral deal in April, nearly 11 years after the end of the Kosovo war.

And those who will suffer most are children like Bukurije and her sister Lumturije, warn experts including Thomas Hammarberg, the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, the pan-European rights body. On Tuesday, he singled out Kosovo as he urged member states to refrain from action that only worsens the exclusion of Roma, many of whom already live on the fringe as stateless people without documents and thus denied basic human rights.

"For instance, western European states should stop forcibly returning Roma to Kosovo," Hammarberg said in a statement.

Rights groups have sounded the alarm about a new round of discrimination against what some call Europe's most hated minority. In France, controversy has dogged a government crackdown on illegal gypsy camps and moves to expel foreign gypsies breaking the law, after President Nicolas Sarkozy said some in the community posed security problems.[...] European Justice and Rights Commissioner Viviane Reding already warned in April that "the situation of many Roma seems to have deteriorated over the years," adding "that is simply not acceptable."

Continue reading the full article here.

I (unexpectedly) came to focus on the marginalization of the Roma in Spain in my PhD thesis on new technologies in Catalonia. The Roma are routinely denied the same sense of place and belonging afforded to other natives (and, to some extent, even new immigrants). Despite centuries of continued residence, such as in the city where I conducted my fieldwork, they are depicted as perennial "outsiders" by locals and often relocated en masse to ghettos on the outskirts of cities or expelled to different countries. These circumstances tell us more about European attitudes towards otherness (via idioms of security) than we can hope to know about this diverse and historically feared and hated population.

See also: De los 700.000 gitanos que viven en EspaƱa, un 25% lo hace bajo el umbral de la pobreza.


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