Letter to the Editor: Roma's plight needs a closer look

Refugees or economic migrants? Slovak Romanies are getting around.
photo: Ján Svrček

Dear Editor,

I am a Canadian Slovak who spent some time in Canadian politics. I am also a human rights activist. I have lived in Slovakia for the last seven years, and I have observed very closely what is going on.

Slovak Romanies who have made their way to Finland and Norway are not refugees. The term 'refugee' applies to people who have been driven out of their homes, whose language and religious rights have been denied, or whose social welfare has been neglected to the point of homelessness and starvation.

If the Finnish government were to investigate the situation of Slovak Romanies in an unbiased way, it would discover the follwing things:

a). every Romany person here receives an allotment of money from the state

b). very few Romany people work - it is not their custom

c). very few Romany children go to school - it is not their custom

d). it is impossible to hire a Romany to do even menial work in a home - pilfering is a custom of theirs. Anything that can be re-sold is taken, and the money used for alcohol

e). the former government set aside some very fine apartments for them in this town where I live, but within weeks, these had been completely destroyed. The floors, being concrete, were judged suitable places to lay 'camp fires,' which were fed with wood from window sills and any other combustible furnishings. The ruined buildings now stand as a sad testament to the Roma's inability to adapt to what most of us consider a normal way of life.

Slovakia is emerging from many years of totalitarianism and is working to take its place in western structures. It has admitted real refugees from the war-torn Yugoslav area. It does not deserve slanderous implications from countries which take in Romany people without first investigating the reasons for their departure.

Anne Matheson

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