John Warmisham: We need politicians of all levels to fight anti-Gypsyism

28 Oct

The Congress Thematic Rapporteur on Roma and Traveller Inclusion calls for a stronger commitment against anti-Gypsyism

Last week, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities adopted a resolution, recommendation and report on the situation of Roma and Travellers in the context of rising extremism and xenophobia and the refugee crisis in Europe.

These documents call on local and regional authorities, as well as on the member states of the Council of Europe to stick to their commitments and do their best to make the inclusion of Roma and Travellers in Europe a reality, despite the difficulties posed by the refugee crisis.

Local and regional authorities remain crucial actors for the realisation of human rights of Roma and Travellers, especially when it comes to social and economic rights concerning the access to housing, education, employment and health care.

However, as the background report has shown, one of the most disruptive forces that hinder social inclusion of Roma and Travellers in Europe is anti-Gypsyism. Anti-Gypsyism is a specific form of racism that dehumanises anybody who is perceived as a “Gypsy”.

As John Warmisham explained in his speech introducing the resolution: “When a mayor does not want to access funds for the improvement of roads or sanitation systems in a Roma neighbourhood because of fear he or she might not be re-elected: that is anti-Gypsyism.”

“Also, when authorities do not make an effort to register newborn babies, who then grow up without identification documents and never can register for education, social welfare, employment assistance and so on. This form of making citizens stateless within their own states is structural discrimination and another form of anti-Gypsyism. The list of examples continues endlessly.“
The resolution therefore calls on local and regional authorities to join the fight against anti-Gypsyism by forcefully and publicly condemning anti-Gypsyist hate speech, violence, and the use of stereotypes and prejudices.

The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Roma Issues, Mr. Valeriu Nicolae, in his address highlighted the importance of politicians joining the fight against anti-Gypsyism: “We need political parties to formally commit to stopping anti-Gypsyism. There are still too many politicians who believe that using racist rhetoric against Roma is a way to win elections. This type of making politics is both irresponsible and dangerous.”

As Rapporteur Warmisham put it: “Every local councillor, mayor and governor, and also MP, MEP, prime minister and president, needs to understand that playing on anti-Gypsyism is harming individuals, the community and society. Every statement against Roma and Travellers is a step back in the struggle for a society in which we live together in dignity and equality.”

Councillor John Warmisham

Learn about the Alliance of Cities and Regions for the Inclusion of Roma and Travellers