THE TORY RECORD ON GYPSIES, ROMA & TRAVELLERS MAKES FOR GRIM READING

by Jonathan Lee

A political party in the UK is defined by its members and its representatives. Regardless of the leader, the real character of a party is found in the policies it puts forward, and the things that its cabinet members, MPs, and local councillors do and say. In the Labour Party, the about turn the party took from being the neoliberal centre-right party of Tony Blair, to the democratic socialist party of Jeremy Corbyn was brought about by the will of its members. The elected politicians of the Labour Party do not always see eye-to-eye with their leader, but if you look at the collective things they say and do, and the policies they propose, there is a broad consensus on certain values which tell you the nature of the party as a whole. The same can be said of the Conservative Party. You can read more here if you want a ten year history of Conservative hate speech against Romani and Traveller people.

The following is a summary of Conservative policies which have affected Gypsies, Roma, & Travellers during the time the Conservatives have been in power.Continue Reading

ANTIGYPSYISM WILL NOT BE CURED BY NEOLIBERAL WISHFUL THINKING

by Jonathan Lee

There is a mendacious yet persistent fantasy that Roma could be saved from the horrors of racism and discrimination if only they weren’t so poor. It is the conservative idea that the free market can cure racism, that racism is purely a product of economic disparity, and that if only Roma were more economically engaged, most of the nasty symptoms of antigypsyism would simply fall away. Continue Reading

IS IT FINALLY TIME FOR AN ANTIGYPSYISM INQUIRY IN THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY?

by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: hate speech, antigypsyism, inclusion of derogatory language.

After a Hope Not Hate survey revealed the not-so-shocking discovery that two thirds of Conservative Party Members are islamophobes, pressure has been mounting for the Tories to launch a party inquiry into Islamophobia. In a time when Jeremy Corbyn’s hummus eating habits spur fresh cries of antisemitism, it is encouraging to see that the ‘Nasty Party’ are not immune from scrutiny for the widespread racism amongst their members. Though the survey results were damning, the response from the media has been somewhat subdued. Can you imagine the backlash if a survey found that two thirds of Labour Party members believed antisemitic conspiracy theories? Or if 43% said they would prefer the UK was not led by a Jew (as Conservatives members indicated at the possibility of a Muslim Prime Minister)? The next Tory leader will inherit this scandal and may not be able to brush it off so easily.

Now that the lid has been blown off the rampant islamophobia within the Conservative Party, it’s high time other widely held racist beliefs in the party ranks were examined; not least, antigypsyism.Continue Reading

HOW THE NAZIS WIPED OUT THE ROMANI MIDDLE CLASS

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By Jonathan Lee

CW genocide, ethnic violence

Between 1936 and 1945 the Nazis wiped out over 50% of Europe’s Romani people.

Whether they were choked to death in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau, “exterminated through labour” climbing the stairs of death at Mauthausen, or shot in a mass grave dug by their own hands in Romania – the extermination of the Gypsies of Europe was carried out with deadly efficiency.

Continue Reading

SORRY ANDREW SELOUS MP, BUT GYPSIES & TRAVELLERS WILL NOT BE ASSIMILATED

By Jonathan Lee

Meet Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire, Andrew Selous.

Andrew recently took a break from opposing gay marriage, overseeing prison cuts, calling for benefits cuts for non-english speakers, and claiming disabled people work hard because they’re grateful just to have a job, and turned his attention to Romani Gypsies and Travellers.

On 13th November, he proposed a bill in the Commons to convert existing sites for Gypsies and Travellers into settled accommodation, remove any obligation on local authorities to build more permanent sites, and make unauthorised encampments a criminal offence.

He also added a bit about making provision for the education of Gypsy & Traveller children, which is nice.Continue Reading

EUROPEAN ROMA AND TRAVELLERS NEED OUR OWN ROSA PARKS

By Jonathan Lee

“‘No blacks, no Irish, no dogs’ signs disappeared long ago, but ‘No Travellers’ signs […] are still widespread,” said Human Rights Barrister, Marc Willers. In fact, ‘No Gypsies’ policies are quite commonplace pretty much everywhere, and Romani and Traveller people are frequently and willfully refused access to public places all over Europe.

Continue Reading

ETHNIC KILLINGS CLAIMED FIFTEEN ROMA IN 2017/18

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By Jonathan Lee

Fifteen Romani men, women and children were murdered in 2017 and 2018 because of their ethnicity. From Bulgaria to France, Roma as young as 13 and as old as 64 were shot, stabbed or beaten to death by racist murderers from across Europe.

Continue Reading

STATELESS ROMA IN UKRAINE HAVE NOWHERE TO TURN TO

By Jonathan Lee
Content warning: this article contains mentions of violence (including police brutality), and structural discrimination.

According to a new report, up to 20% of Ukraine’s Romani population are stateless – that is, they are without identity documents such as birth certificates, passports, or identity cards which prove they are citizens. The lack of evidence to prove their nationality means these Roma are denied access to basic services such as healthcare, education, housing, and welfare, as well as to regular employment or for some, even something as simple as a mobile phone contract.

After a series of organised attacks on Roma by far-right organisations in the past year, most of the country’s Roma who regularly spend the summer working in the major cities have now returned to their home region of Zakarpattiya on the South Western border. Whilst reports of fresh attacks came in over the summer, Roma living in settlements in Beregovo and Uzhgorod began to look abroad for the vital work which they needed to survive; work they were being denied by the far-right militias whom had driven them out of the cities.Continue Reading

PRISONS BECOMING A DEATH-SENTENCE FOR ROMA

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by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: article contains strong language, ethnic slurs, and graphic descriptions of death, suicide, prison environments and torture.

On April 9th 2018, the day after International Roma Day, a crowd gathered outside the doors of the Murcia Regional Government building in Alicante, Spain. They were not there to celebrate, but to mourn and demonstrate about the unexplained death of twenty-eight-year-old Romani man, Manuel Fernández, on 22nd October 2017. His case is one of many unexplained deaths of Roma in prison.Continue Reading

HAPPY APRIL 8TH. LET’S HAVE A PROTEST

by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: article mentions antigypsyism, racism, discrimination and persecution 

Opre Roma, si bakht akana
Aven mansa sa lumnyake Roma.
Roma arise! The time is now.
Come with me, Roma from all the world.

These words were written in 1949 by Žarko Jovanović, a Romani Holocaust survivor, Yugoslav Partisan fighter, and activist. They were put to a traditional melody, and adopted as the Romani Anthem in 1971.

It bears none of the hallmarks of an anthem as conceived in the traditional sense by European nation-states. It is not a hymn or an opera. It’s melody is plaintive, unstructured, reckless even. It does not conceive of a homeland, real or imagined, nor does it call for the unification of a people in a national sense. Instead the lyrics speak of the freedom of the road, freedom from persecution, and the need for unity of Romani people across the world. Amongst many other things, it is fundamentally a protest song.Continue Reading

THE EU IS GIVING FASCISM ITS SIX MONTHS IN THE SUN

by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: articles mentions fascism, neo-Nazis, anti-Roma and anti-Gypsy sentiments, concentration camps and violence. Article contains strong language, derogatory language and includes descriptions of assault. Video includes scenes of violence.

The EU is led by gangsters, racists, and neo-Nazis.

I don’t mean that in a Ukippy way. I mean that until the 30th June 2018, the presidency of the Council of the European Union will be held by Bulgaria, and will prominently feature a colourful circus of hate mongers, criminals and outright fascists.

The government in Sofia is currently propped up by a coalition of truly nasty bastards called the ‘United Patriots’, who are united mostly by their shared sense of aggressive racism. It is comprised of three parties: the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB), the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO), and ‘Ataka’ (simply, attack).Continue Reading

LIBERTÉ, EGALITÉ, EXPULSIONS FORCÉES

by Jonathan Lee

If you get off the metro at Porte de Clignancourt in Paris, a little over a kilometre north of the Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre, and follow the line of the disused 19th century Petite Ceinture railway for a couple of minutes from the busy intersection, you will soon come across rows of makeshift shacks lining the railway.

Similar shanty towns can be found tucked away under bridges, behind fences, and on ex-industrial plots across the city and throughout France. Along with a scattering of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, these slums are inhabited almost entirely by Roma.Continue Reading

WHY I WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO COLLECT DATA ABOUT MY ETHNICITY

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by Jonathan Lee

A new project to count the number of Romani Gypsies and Irish Travellers in London was recently launched by London Gypsies & Travellers and Mapping for Change. Their goal is to provide an accurate estimate of the numbers and distribution of GRT (Gypsy, Roma and Traveller) people across the city.

Official census statistics on Romani and Traveller people in the UK are famously inaccurate (only 58,000 in the 2011 census). This is partly because neither group are traditionally very fond of official registers, particularly those which record ethnicity.

And why should we be?Continue Reading

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ANTIGYPSYISM

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by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: article explores discrimination, racism, hate speech and antigypsyism and includes derogatory language.

Don’t say gypo or gypped.  Pikey or tinker. Don’t put up ‘No Travellers’ signs.

If you are not Romani, never wear Gypsy-themed costumes at Hallowe’en. And don’t call yourself Gypsy because you think you’re free spirited. Or because you’ve been to India, or believe in chakras, or live in a campervan or something. These things are racist towards Romani people and Irish Travellers. It’s called antigypsyism.

This is the specific form of racism directed against Roma, Sinti, Travellers, Manush, Balkan Egyptians, Ashkali, Yenish and others who are stigmatized as ‘gypsies’ in the public imagination.

Unfortunately, there is a lot more to it than a few nasty words and some garishly tacky costumes. In order to fight this phenomenon in our society, you need to understand how deep the rabbit hole really goes.Continue Reading

SORRY, ARE YOU A TRAVELLER?

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by Jonathan Lee

Content warning: article mentions antigypsyism and racism

“The Gypsy and Traveller community complain that they don’t get enough media attention, but crime watch is on TV every week.”

This was the name of a team at a pub quiz I attended in Oxford recently. When it was read aloud, half the pub laughed and jeered. The other half remained silent, either through complicity or complete indifference. No one challenged the offending team, no one called out, no one made a disapproving noise. When the woman behind the bar saw my apparent discomfort, she asked:

Sorry, are you a Traveller?”

Unsure whether she was apologising for the hate speech coming through the pub’s speaker system, or for the actual ethnicity itself, I answered:

Yes I am.”Continue Reading