Unite against fascismRoma defy EDL (and Home Office)

By Grattan Puxon

Even as Roma speakers addressed an audience at the Unite Against Fascism conference in London at the weekend on the rising frequency of attacks by neo-Nazi groups across Europe, the English Defence League were gathering in a menacing crowd outside the TUC HQ.

European Roma Network (ERN) delegate Michael Daduc and Roma London chair Toma Mladenov were warned by UAF stewards to remain in the hall while police faced off the EDL outside in Great Russell Street. Eventually both were able to leave without  incident. 

Mladenov told the conference that under extreme pressure by UK authorities, many Bulgarian Roma had quit living in London and returned to Sofia. He said families had received Home Office letters which when he consulted lawyers were found to have little or no basis in law. 

"The Home Office has frightened a lot of people into leaving," said Mladenov. "I'm among the few to stay on despite the very hostile atmosphere created by the media and the Coalition government against migrants and especially Roma." 

Michael Daduc, secretary of ERN, said there were now 200,000 newly arrived Roma in Britain. All were facing problems around education, housing and jobs. As to the rest of Europe, the Roma Decade much trumpeted by the EU had brought almost no improvements. 

In the case of the UK, Roma were often at the mercy of exploiting landlords and employers, and unwilling local authorities.    

However, ERN now had an invitation to meet with officials at the Department of Communities  and Local Government and would be setting out a number of recommendations. "We are putting together a united delegation for this meeting," said Daduc. "It will be  the first of its kind to include Roma of both the new and old communities, and Travellers."

Ulrike Schmidt, of Amnesty International, outlined a number of recent neo-fascist attacks in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. In Greece, she said, members of Golden Dawn, a fascist party still growing in strength, had attacked a Romani woman and her children in the centre of Athens.               

16 June 2014

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