New Internationalist

Roma discrimination rife

May 2014

Slovakia isolates this persecuted population from the rest of society by building walls and segregating schools, says Lydia James.

roma [Related Image]
With education and housing as two areas where Roma are increasingly segregated, this baby faces an uncertain future. Chuck Sudetic/Open Society Foundations under a Creative Commons Licence

An item from the Agenda section of the magazine, where we look beyond the news curve with reports and comment on breaking stories.

There is a growing trend of Roma segregation in the Eastern European country of Slovakia, despite a landmark ruling last September that forced a junior-elementary school to integrate its students.

Before the court case, Roma pupils at Sarissvke Michal’any school were taught in separate classes, had to play outside in different areas and were barred from the café. It was not an isolated case. The segregation practised at this school was typical of others across Slovakia.

Seven months after the ruling, little has changed. Most classes at Sarissvke Michal’any remain segregated, with only the 16 brightest Roma students now allowed into previously ‘white only’ classrooms.

Exclusion has surged in recent years. Across Slovakia, 40 per cent of Roma students are taught separately, compared with just 7 per cent 20 years ago.

Places of education are not the only sites of separation. Last August, a wall was constructed to isolate Roma communities in the country’s second-largest city, Košice, in eastern Slovakia. The city council has pledged legal action to remove the wall, which local authorities in the Zapad district had constructed, but for now it remains. In the same year that Košice attracted international condemnation for discrimination against Roma communities, it celebrated its ‘European Capital of Culture’ status awarded by the EU.

The Košice wall is the 14th to be built in Slovakia since 2008. Behind these barriers lie crowded shanty towns – either urban housing projects or rural settlements. Most lack running water, heating, sanitation and public services such as rubbish collection.

The Roma minority face discrimina­tion across Europe; the Czech Republic and Romania also have anti-Roma ‘security’ barriers.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 472 This feature was published in the May 2014 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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