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RECESSION MAY FUEL ‘SCAPEGOATING’ OF TRAVELLERS (European Union) December 9, 2009

Posted by cristobalgomez in Uncategorized.
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Travellers and Roma are by far the most discriminated against minority groups in Europe and could face further scapegoating during this recession, a leading EU rights agency has warned. Morten Kjaerum, director of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, said yesterday its recent study of 25,000 people across Europe found on almost all parameters – health, education and housing – the two minority groups faced high levels of discrimination. “This study was conducted on the edge of the financial crisis and unfortunately it has grown worse since. We have detected from some follow-up studies a certain amount of scapegoating where the Roma community is targeted,” said Mr Kjaerum at a conference in Dublin to mark the 25th anniversary of the Pavee Point Travellers Centre. Margaret Greenfields, a lecturer at Buckinghamshire New University and author of a report on Travellers for the British Equality and Human Rights Commission, said Irish Travellers in England faced more extreme hostility than British gypsies. “One study found 35 per cent of British people felt it was acceptable to discriminate against Travellers. It builds on existing anti-Irish prejudice . . . I’ve even been spat at by people attending meetings where I have spoken up for Travellers,” said Dr Greenfields. The conference heard examples where members of the settled community have come into conflict with Travellers. One Traveller housing scheme in Skerries has attracted 1,182 objections, with locals threatening to exhume the bodies of relatives from a neighbouring graveyard if the local council completes the work.

“Earlier this year a house allocated to a Traveller family in Tipperary was burned down before the family could move in. This is a reminder that Travellers are still one of the most despised and excluded groups in Irish society,” said Martin Collins, one of the founders of Pavee Point, which campaigns on behalf of the Travelling community.  He also reflected on the progress made by the Travelling community since Pavee Point was founded, noting 50 Travellers had graduated from university in recent years and three Travellers were currently studying at the Royal College of Surgeons.  Anastasia Crickley, chairwoman of the Vienna-based Fundamental Rights Agency, said there were good structures in place in Ireland, which could help to end discrimination against Travellers, but there was often a lack of political will to implement plans. Access to suitable accommodation remains a critical issue for the Travelling community, although some progress has been made in recent years. In 2002 37.6 per cent of Travellers did not have access to piped water while 35.2 per cent had no sewage facilities. This had fallen to 26.4 per cent and 25.3 per cent respectively by 2006.
© The Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/

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