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news 10 May 12

Anti-Roma Incidents Criticised in Croatia

Parliamentary committee for minorities condemns recent wave of hate speech directed against Roma community.

Boris Pavelic

In the latest of several anti-Roma actions or statements in Croatia, locals in the town of  Siroka Kula said they have set up a "headquarters" to organise "the protection of local population from Roma and their cattle.

"The Roma minority have more rights than the majority do here", Ivica Stimac told the daily Novi list, claiming that cattle owned by Roma families were destroying wheat fields.

In another, more serious, incident, in Skabrnja, in Dalmatia, a Roma family were driven off land they had bought.

Ante Djanija's family quit their property on May 3 after receiving threats from locals, including the local mayor, Luka Skara.

"Serbs and Roma never lived in Skabrnja and they never will," said Skara told a rally, announcing that a wall and barbed wire would be built round land bought by the family.

The day after the family left Skabrnja, police arrested Skara. But after he was released, Skara stated that "Roma should be put together with the garbage".

Human rights ombudsman Jurica Malcic warned that such hate speech is a criminal offence. "Such a statements can have no place in 21st century Croatia", Malcic said.

"Such a behaviour is absolutely intolerable," Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic agreed, commenting on the expulsion of the family from Skabrnja.

However, some government ministers have also stirred anti-Roma sentiments in recent weeks.

On a visit in late March to Medjimurje, in northern Croatia, where many Roma live, Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said that "more than a half of all criminal offences in Medjimurje were perpetrated by the Roma population".

Amnesty International Croatia later criticised the minister, saying his words "reinforce discriminatory racial stereotypes".

But two weeks later, Zeljko Prsa, chief of police in Osijek, in eastern Croatia, blamed Roma for many acts of burglary and housebreaking.

"They are a protected minority, you know how that goes. There's nothing we can do but to intensify patrols or expell them", said Prsa, informing the city council about the security situation in the Osijek area.

When the committee for minorities in the parliament, the Sabor, discussed the recent anti-Roma statements on Thursday, Roma MP Veljko Kajtazi called for Skabrnja mayor Luka Skara to resign.

"Xenophobic incidents are absolutely unacceptable. They can lead to unwanted consequences," said Boris Blazekovic, an MP for the Croatian People's Party, the second largest in the ruling centre-left coalition.


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