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News 17 Jul 17

Serbian Tour Company Scraps 'Gypsy Tour' After Racism Row

A Serbian tour guide company has called off its ’Gypsy Tour’ of Belgrade after being accused of promoting racism.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
A Roma camp. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Raki_Man

Belgrade-based tourist company CitySoul has cancelled its planned "Gypsy Tour" of the Serbian capital, which was to include driving to Roma neighbourhoods, seeing how people live there and "optional talking to a Gypsy", after the tour was accused of racism.

"Unique in our city - Roma safari! Optionally you can talk to them, for 11,200 dinars [93 euros]" read one Twitter comment.

"If you can’t afford to travel to Africa, take a photo with the Roma children in Serbia to show how cosmopolitan you are," another Twitter comment said.

The Romani Antifascist Action compared the tour to a "human zoo" on Facebook.

"It’s sad, unfortunately, but what can I say," said the company’s owner, Lizzy Mae Van Son, when BIRN asked her about the reaction on social networks.

She confirmed that the company had cancelled the tour because of the backlash, but did not comment any further, saying that she was busy with customers.

CitySoul tour invited tourists to see how the Roma, or "Romney" as it called them, live and earn money.

The price of the tour was over 90 euros per tour, and it is not known how much of that was to be shared with the participating Roma.

"This is degrading for the people who are being visited in such a way," Milan Antonijevic, from the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, Yucom, said.

Antonijevic told BIRN that visiting Roma settlements in such a way violated the human rights of the inhabitants.

"That way of life is not a choice, it is a consequence of neglect and other social circumstances. It is not something for tourists to enjoy," he said.

According to the 2011 census, Serbia was home to just over 147,000 Roma, making them the third largest community in the country after Serbs and Bosniaks/Muslims. According to a  UN report from 2014, over 60 per cent live in severe poverty and 70 per cent are "functionally illiterate".

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