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Roma survey shows persisting racism

Attitudes toward Slovakia's largest minority, the Roma, are not changing, according to a recent survey.
The survey was carried out in November by the Markant polling agency at the request of the People Against Racism NGO.
Markant's survey, which involved a representative sample of 1,102 respondents aged over 15 years, appeared to show that the public continued to view the Roma in a negative light.


Roma experts say Slovaks need to understand why the minority needs help.
photo: TASR

Attitudes toward Slovakia's largest minority, the Roma, are not changing, according to a recent survey.

The survey was carried out in November by the Markant polling agency at the request of the People Against Racism NGO.

Markant's survey, which involved a representative sample of 1,102 respondents aged over 15 years, appeared to show that the public continued to view the Roma in a negative light.

In the survey, almost 83% of respondents said they would object to their daughters' marrying a Roma - the fifth least popular marital partner after an alcoholic, a drug addict, a former convict and a skinhead (see chart). Nearly 65% said they would be against a Roma becoming their neighbour.

Similar results have been seen in surveys conducted on social attitudes since 1999. The Roma minority is estimated to number around 400,000, or 8% of Slovakia's population, and has repeatedly drawn concern from international organisations for the dire circumstances in which some Roma live.

"We're full of prejudice. We don't judge people by their deeds, but through the lens of our prejudice," said Ladislav Ďurkovič of People Against Racism.

"I have yet to meet someone who lives here and whose skin colour is different from the majority who could say that he has never had problems with racist remarks."

The survey results, published December 13, coincided with a summary by the Slovak cabinet of its own activities aimed at solving problems confronted by Slovakia's Roma, including unemployment, poverty, poor housing, sanitation and education.

The cabinet progress report included seven areas and listed 167 specific tasks carried out by the state in 2000 on Sk85.1 million ($1.7 million) in public funds.

The report was submitted for cabinet discussion by Pál Csáky, the Deputy Prime Minister for Minorities. It evaluated the success of programmes such as seminars for Roma and minority experts, increasing sensitivity to minority issues in the Slovak army and among the police, and support for Roma culture projects.

At the December 13 meeting cabinet also approved another Sk2.7 million ($55,100) for the completion of a Roma housing project in the eastern Slovak village of Rudňany which will provide 86 housing units for Roma families.

Daniela Šilanová, editor of Romano Lil Nevo (Roma Newsletter) newspaper in Prešov, acknowledged that progress had been made by cabinet over the past two years, but said: "The state still organises more conferences and seminars than it actually helps to improve the life of the Roma."

She also suggested that the cabinet's efforts to help the Roma community, coupled with increased media coverage, could be fuelling resentment against the Roma that was reflected in the results of opinion polls.

"The general Slovak economic situation is not good, and it's possible that many people ask 'why is the government helping the Roma and not us?'. The problem is that it has never been properly explained why the Roma are particularly in need of help."

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