ERRC press statement

From: MINELRES moderator <>
Date: Mon, 12 Oct 1998 10:00:04 +0300 (EET DST)
Message-Id: <>
Subject: ERRC press statement

From: MINELRES moderator <>

Original sender: Tatjana Peric <>

ERRC press statement

The European Roma Rights Center is concerned that the October 7, 1998
decision of the British Home Office to reimpose visa requirements for
Slovaks entering the United Kingdom, reflects an intent to
discriminate against Roma. Following a surge in Romani asylum seekers
from Slovakia in recent months, the UK's decision to reimpose visa
requirements on all Slovaks will likely prevent numerous Roma
legitimately fleeing racist violence and persecution from ever
reaching the United Kingdom.
Since the beginning of 1998, more than 1,000 Slovak Roma have
requested asylum in the United Kingdom. Many have met with hostility
and prejudice on the part of British government officials. Earlier
this year, Minister for Immigration Mike O'Brien asserted without
foundation that the majority of asylum seekers had "bogus" claims, and
publicly urged cross-Channel ferry companies to refuse passage to Roma
lawfully travelling with pre-paid tickets. Large segments of the
British press have only fuelled racist sentiments by referring
negatively to "scrounging foreign Gypsies" who allegedly couch their
purely economic motives in political rhetoric.
In fact, Roma in Slovakia are routinely subjected to acts of violence
and discrimination which have been exhaustively documented by
governmental and non-governmental organisations. Even as skinhead
attacks have proliferated, criminal prosecutions for
racially-motivated violence are rare. Hate speech has grown more
common, and Roma are afforded no effective remedies for systematic
discrimination in the fields of education, employment and access to
public accommodations. Indeed, this spring, a British court overturned
exclusion orders issued for several Slovak Romani asylum applicants,
finding that "discrimination against Roma in Slovakia is rife among
all sections of society."
Having lifted visa requirements for Slovaks after the 1989
Czechoslovak "Velvet Revolution," their reimposition comes perversely
in the very week after elections which, for the first time in several
years, offer the possibility for a Slovak government more supportive
of human rights.  In a letter sent today to the Home Secretary, Jack
Straw, the ERRC urged the British government to reverse this decision
and afford Slovak Romani asylum seekers fair treatment and
individualised consideration of their claims.
*    *    *
The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest
law organisation which monitors the situation of Roma in Europe and
provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. The ERRC is
supervised by a board of directors.  Romani organisations and Romani
individuals throughout Europe contribute time, money and expertise to
the ERRC.

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