From September 8-10, 2010, a Roma conference was held in Lisbon, Portugal that concentrated on the discrimination against the Roma throughout Europe. There are 10-16 million Roma in Europe but despite those seemingly large numbers they’re still discriminated against, sometimes in particularly vile ways. Recently, the French government ordered the destruction of all Roma encampments with the residents of those encampments being deported to Romania, Bulgaria, and other Eastern European countries. French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the members of his government believe the Roma to be a bad influence on the country and they’re working hard to expel those that have not integrated into society.
The Roma conference was held in part to try and educate people on how to help the Roma integrate, as opposed to just kicking them out. For the most part they don’t have any desire to destroy the societies they live in – some practice thievery to survive and cause mass problems – but many governments in Europe seem unwilling to listen and would instead prefer that the Roma leave their countries entirely.
The Roma conference was organized by the Gypsy Lore Society (the Roma are also known as Gypsies) a group that doesn’t typically engage in political action but felt the need because of the French actions and Italy (thousands of Roma have been expelled from Italy in much the same way that France did, although in a less public manner). Many speakers at the conference detailed the long history of poor treatment of the Roma and it’s fairly stunning how for more than a thousand years they’ve been hunted, enslaved, expelled, murdered, and more by the people of Europe. These activist groups hope to change that poor treatment and work hard every day to do so.