The small Roma community of Andrychow is living in fear since Polish far-right groups began a campaign of harassment against them.
The campaign began with a rally last month where the chant “Cyganies raus” (Gypsies or Roma out) was heard and has continued with social media and intimidation.
Roman Kwiatkowski, head of the Association of Roma in Poland, said Andrychow is the first case he has seen of an organised anti-Roma campaign in the country. “It is very dangerous,” he said. “It does not allow us to look to the future with confidence.”
Roma residents say they are living in fear.
Human rights campaigners believe the situation is being exacerbated by activists from outside the town who are being advised by the Jobbik party in Hungary on how to emulate their success.
Tamas Fodor, a Jobbik activist who was in Warsaw this month for meetings with like-minded Poles, denied his movement was giving recommendations to anyone in Poland.
“But if they see something that worked in Hungary, they can use it,” he said.
The football fans were shouting at a rally organised by Robert Winnicki, a far-right leader from Warsaw who said all the 100 or so ethnic Roma living in a town of 20,000 people should be driven out.
Jobbik’s tactic has been to hold rallies blaming Roma for crime and social grievances. They then recruit local youths into vigilante patrols, with the stated aim of protecting citizens from the Roma.
In Andrychow last month, a pregnant Roma woman was attacked as she walked in the street. Soon after, two young ethnic Poles were beaten up in what many residents assumed was a Roma revenge attack.
Anger erupted. Supporters of the local football club, Beskid Andrychow, set up a page on Facebook. It published accounts of what it said were violent attacks by Roma, and photographs of ethnic Poles it said had been beaten up. The page has now been “liked” by 14,182 people. One post read: “We’re not going to sit quietly and pretend that everything is OK. We are shouting long and loud: enough of Gypsy impunity!”
The Roma community said the patrols by football fans were still going on at weekends. They now only go out at night to get essentials from the shops, and then, never alone. One man, Rafal Strauss, said the community had started keeping their children home from school. Two Roma woman said they had heard that ethnic Poles in at least local two apartment blocks had submitted petitions to the city authorities asking that Roma neighbours be moved out – an assertion that could not be verified.
Another Roma man, Mieczyslaw Pankowski, said he was now too scared to take his seven-year-old disabled daughter for treatment in a nearby town and the family lived in fear of attacks at night: “We take it in turns to keep watch,” he said. “We’re frightened to go to sleep in case someone throws a bottle through the window.”
Party officials from Jobbik and Ruch Narodowy – an umbrella organisation for far-right groups – said that the events in Andrychow were a spontaneous, grassroots upsurge of anger. The politicians were only there to help, they said.
But they acknowledge that the example of how Jobbik grew on the back of anti-Roma sentiment may have been an influence. “I think that the organisers may have viewed certain successes in Hungary as an inspiration,” said Winnicki.
Events in Andrychow indicate that Jobbik – snubbed even by many west European far-right parties as anti-Semitic and racist – is spreading its ideology beyond Hungary’s borders, in this case to Poland – by far the biggest and most influential ex-Soviet bloc state in the European Union.
Clashes between police officers and Romani people broke out yesterday morning in the Bulgarian town of Stara Zagora. Romani people formed human chains in an effort to prevent authorities from demolishing their homes.
News server Novinite.com reports that three police officers were lightly injured and two Romani people were arrested. The demolition of a total of 55 illegally built homes in the Lozenec quarter began on Monday 21 July at 7:30 AM on the basis of a decision by Mayor Zhivko Todorov.
Town representatives said the homeowners had been advised of the demolition within the legally-established timeframe, but the occupants disagree with the destruction of their homes and decided to defend them. Romani locals erected barricades and formed a human chain, chanting „Mafia, mafia“, some even threatened to commit suicide.
Riot police intervened against them. According to the Bulgarian media, some Romani people threw rocks and rooftiles at the officers.
Three officers were lightly injured and received medical treatment at the scene. Two protesters were arrested and authorities are pressing charges against them.
The demolition of the houses was originally to have taken place in May, but according to local authorities, it had to be thoroughly prepared so that order and security could be ensured during the demolition. News server Novinite.com reports there were almost 1 000 officers at the scene and in the area around the Romani houses, as well as several ambulances and fire trucks.
The owners of the demolished homes said they will sue over the incident. They intend to turn to the European Court of Human Rights, which issued a judgment in April 2012 instructing the authorities that they could not proceed in such a violent way.
Mayor Todorov said there was no way to legalize the 55 houses because they were built on land that belongs to Borova Gora Park. A total of 30 homes were demolished on Monday, with the demolition continuing today.
NGOs such as the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee are protesting the procedure undertaken by the Stara Zagora town hall. The organizations say the state is „practicing institutional racist violence“ in this case.
„The creation of homeless people does not address social problems, it creates them. The irresponsible behavior of the state will lead to more judgments against Bulgaria and in the long term will have serious consequences for all of society,“ the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said in a press release.
Euroroma, a Romani political party, called on the mayor to immediately halt the demolitions. Party supporters said they would blockade the country’s main highways if the demolitions continued.
Was bleibt. What remains
Katalog Was bleibt. What remains.
„Wir fühlen uns hier wie im Gefängnis.“
„Wir sind hier mitten im Wald.“
„Wir fühlen uns absolut isoliert und verloren.“
„Wie sollen unsere Kinder von hier aus in ihre Schulen in Kreuzberg kommen?“
Statements der Romafamilien nachdem sie am 24.6.2014, dem Tag des Polizeieinsatzes zur „freiwilligen Räumung der Gerhart-Hauptmann-Schule“, per Bus in ein Erstaufnahmelager für Asylbewerber in Hohengatow gebracht wurden.
Ihre anfängliche Hoffnung auf eine Unterkunft wandelte sich innerhalb von Stunden in Verzweiflung über ihre isolierte Situation in Hohengatow.
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