'No blacks, no dogs,no Gypsies'
Here in the UK we've just had Roma and Gypsy History Month and some people for the first time had a chance to engage with the rich cultural background of Roma, Gypsy and other traveller groups. The racism that these groups are often subject to is not just from individuals but institutional too. This kind of racism aimed at Roma and Gypsy peoples is rife across Europe and beyond not just in the UK. The empowerment of the communities to mount organised action will be key to tackling this problem.
Gypsies and Travellers in the UK are uniting to form a nationwide coalition to fight what they describe as rapidly escalating levels of racism and discrimination. The leaders of the nation's largest Gypsy and Traveller organisations will hold an unprecedented gathering later this month with the aim of bringing together the country's 300,000 Roma, Irish, Welsh and English Gypsies and Travellers in a national federation.
Studies in recent years have shown that Gypsies and Travellers experience more racism than any other group in the UK, including asylum-seekers. The most recent Mori poll on the issue revealed that a third of UK residents admitted to being prejudiced against Gypsies and Travellers, while a European Commission report published last week demonstrated that millions of people of Roma origin are still subject to persistent discrimination.
"Travelling people are travelling people, no matter what their ethnicity – we are all marginalised and tarred with the same brush," said Richard Sheridan, president of the Gypsy Council.
"I don't think that the situation in the UK has changed much since the 1960s – those 'No blacks, no dogs, no Gypsies signs' are not very far away.