Anti-Roma racism

World in View

French high school students protested the dragging of a 15-year-old student, Leonarda Dibrani, from a school bus by police. Dibrani, a Kosovar girl who is also Roma, was being expelled from the country along with her family. This was not an isolated incident. Racism against Roma infects significant sectors of French society, and now reaches into the innards of the “Socialist” government. Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls has said that “only a minority” of Roma could be integrated into society.

The Roma are a small minority in France, some 20,000, but they are subject to extreme isolation—many live in squalid camps on the outskirts of cities—accused of being petty criminals, and generally being an “Other.” The reality of Roma life is one of economic poverty, and lack of opportunity for jobs or education. The far Right refers to them as “smelly” and “rash-inducing,” which most French people condemn. But fear of the Other “invading” French society has a long history, particularly regarding North African and Middle Eastern immigrants.

France isn’t alone in its racism. England has broken up a Roma encampment and expelled its residents. The Czech Republic places Roma in segregated schools. Police in Sweden kept a special registry of Roma families. On the other hand, Spain has made efforts to welcome and integrate the Roma into society through healthcare, education, and social housing. This is in opposition to the anti-Roma actions of the Fascist era.

—E.W.

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