Ahead of International Roma Day on 8th April, GUE/NGL MEPs have spoken out against the continuing discrimination and suffering endured by the 12 million Roma and Sinti people living in the EU.

Despite the fact that the number of Roma and Sinti people in the EU is far greater than both the Belgian and Portuguese populations, they remain discriminated against and are not recognised as a minority in many EU countries.

Italian MEP Curzio Maltese said: “The Roma and Sinti people are a genuine European people who have been living all over Europe for many centuries and have a historical right to consider Europe their home.”

Maltese continued: “It is absurd that 70 years since the genocide of the Roma and Sintis took place we still need to discuss whether to establish a memorial day for the victims of this crime. Roma still live in intolerable conditions in Europe; they have a life expectancy of just over 60, high child mortality rates and unemployment in some regions of over 90%. In addition, they are the object of increasing numbers of attacks that often go unpunished.”

For Irish MEP Martina Anderson, International Roma Day is an important opportunity to recognise the historic and persistent discrimination of Roma in Europe.

She said: “Roma suffered hugely during the Second World War when they were systematically persecuted, deported and killed. It is vital we recognise the suffering they endured and distance ourselves from the sickening comments we heard here this evening, nothing short of hate speech. Today Roma continue to suffer discrimination, including in education, healthcare, housing and due to ignorance. All citizens should have access to all provisions, which are after all a human right.”

Spanish MEP Marina Albiol said: “This day of commemoration of the Roma during the Second World War is important, but we really haven't learned from the horrors of the past.”

“Persecution of Roma continues within EU borders,” she said and cited cases where high-ranking officials made discriminatory remarks or took discriminatory actions such as then-Commission Vice-President Franco Frattini in 2007 and current French Prime Minister Manuel Vals who, when interior minister, tried to expel and 15-year-old school child while she was on a school trip.

Italian MEP Barbara Spinelli said: “The extermination of Roma and Sinti deserves to be officially recognised and remembered at European level as part of the genocides committed by the Nazi-fascist regime. This, so that anti-Gypsyism – like anti-Semitism – shall be considered as a form of racism against a specific European ethnic community. The fact that in Europe governments as well as politicians – also from the left wing – do not hesitate to use anti-Roma rhetoric and discriminate against the Roma and Sinti community is deeply worrying.”

The remarks were made in a European Parliament debate on 25 March.

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