When three years ago the former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, decided to expel a few thousands of European Union citizens of Roma origin from the French territory (for a small financial compensation), the EU Commission itself intervened and most of the media did not hide their outrage. French public opinion, however, was divided – for some, the Roma with their nomadic lifestyle, darker carnation and strange language, taking advantage of the state’s aid, were perceived as unwanted strangers, not adapted to the French social landscape.
But what happened in France was just another confirmation of the shameful fact that most of the estimated 10-12 million Roma in Europe face marginalization, prejudice, xenophobia and discrimination in their everyday lives. The most worrisome fact is that 500 years of disgraceful treatment in Europe of Roma, since their arrival following the migration from India, has not ended with the emergence of the European human rights protection system. The methods of oppression varied in the past between enslavement, enforced assimilation, expulsion, internment and mass killings, whilst today they consist mostly of various forms of discrimination, homelessness, lack of health and social care, no job opportunities, forced evictions, discriminatory migration policies as well as hate speech and hate crimes against Roma. Slow progress in remedying these human rights violations is often being attributed to the insufficient involvement in improving the situation of Roma children, who are unable to succeed because of the hereditary disadvantages. As a result, shocking cases of abuse, humiliation and discrimination of Roma children are reported, leading to international protests but at the same time remaining unsolved as structural problems. After the sadistic behavior of Slovak police toward a group of Roma children became publicly known (arrested Roma children had been forced to strip and slap one another violently in the face in the police station), the responsible policemen were suspended, but alarming questions remained unanswered: was this event unique or have similar violations taken place before? Did the policemen even fear disciplinary repercussions? Is there a serious gap in the training or instruction of the police and, therefore, the responsibility for these actions lies higher up? The truth is that the general hostile, humiliating and disrespectful attitude of European societies towards the Roma people allows for shocking situations in which public hospitals in Slovakia do not hesitate to conduct forced sterilisation of the Roma women with the aim of decreasing their fertility, on the basis of an alleged cultural tendency of the Roma to have too many children.