Roma wall

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A Roma wall or Gypsy wall is a wall built by local authorities in the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia to segregate the Roma minority from the rest of the population. Such practices have been criticised by both human rights organizations and the European Union, who see it as a case of racial segregation.[1]

Czech Republic[edit]

Ústí nad Labem[edit]

A 2-metre high, 65-metre long wall along Matiční street[2] was built in the Czech town of Ústí nad Labem in 1999 following complaints of the locals that the Roma were "noisy and unhygienic".[1] The local authorities argued that it's a "noise barrier" that will also keep the Roma children from running into the street [3] and that it's part of an "urban renewal programme".[2]

Following opposition from the European Union (Commissioner Guenter Verheugen called it "a violation of human rights"[2]), the Czech Republic promised that it would be torn down, and it was demolished on November 24, 1999.[1] The government provided the local authorities money for social welfare programmes, but much of the money was used for buying the houses of the non-Roma residents, thus creating a local Roma-only "ghetto".[1]

In 2000, the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic ruled that the MPs exceeded their legal powers when they ordered the demolition of the wall, as this was a matter of local self-government.[4]

Romania[edit]

Baia Mare[edit]

In Baia Mare, Romania, the local administration built a wall surrounding the social housing that houses 1000 Roma people into one-room apartments, some without water or electricity. [5] According to the mayor, this wall was designed to "prevent traffic accidents",[6] while pro-democracy organizations say it amounts to "institutionalized racism".[6]

In 2011, the national anti-discrimination council fined mayor Cătălin Cherecheș for the building of the wall and ordered it to be pulled down.[7]

The wall nevertheless proved popular with the majority population and the mayor was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2012.[5]

Slovakia[edit]

Ostrovany[edit]

In Ostrovany, Slovakia, a 150-metre long wall was built by the local government separating the Roma from the rest of the population. According to the mayor, the goal was to "stop vandalism and theft".[8] Unlike in other cases, in Ostrovany, the Roma form the majority of the population (1200 of the 1786 residents), making it even more unjust, according to critics, who argue that separating people is not a solution to social problems.[8]

Košice[edit]

A wall was built in the summer of 2013 in the town of Zapad district of Košice.[9] Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth complained about the wall arguing that it "violates the EU's stand against racism" by segregating the Roma people[9] and it is at odds with the concept of European Capital of Culture, which the town bears this year.[10] The mayor of Košice, Richard Raši, called the wall illegally built without the necessary permits and pledged its demolition.[9]

Other walls[edit]

In 2013, there were 14 Roma walls in Slovakia, of which 8 in the Košice and Prešov regions, which have the highest Roma populations. The local authorities decide for building such walls and they usually state a different reason than the Roma people.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Furlong, Ray (November 24, 1999). "Czechs pull down Gypsy wall". BBC. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c LeBor, Adam (October 28, 1999). "Gypsy Wall That Shames the Czechs". The Independent. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Barrie, Janet (February 26, 1999). "Hiding gypsies behind a wall". BBC. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  4. ^ Repa, Jan (April 12, 1999). "Czech court backs anti-Gypsy wall". BBC. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Estrin, James (November 5, 2012). "Breaking Through Walls of Bias". New York Times. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Marinas, Radu (July 1, 2011). "Romanian town erects wall by Roma neighborhood". New York Times. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  7. ^ "Romanian mayor fined over ‘Roma wall’". Euronews. November 18, 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Bilefsky, Dan (April 3, 2010). "Walls, Real and Imagined, Surround the Roma". New York Times. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c "Slovakia 'anti-Roma' wall in Kosice riles EU". BBC. August 20, 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  10. ^ Androulla Vassiliou, Letter to the mayor of Košice