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UK Roma at Ministry to seek National Strategy

A united delegation of Roma representatives, drawn from a number of NGOs, will meet with UK Government officials for the first time this week (31 July) to press for implementation of an improved National Strategy.

Ladislav Balaz, chair of the Europe Roma Network, will urge the Government to replace present policies and attitudes that entail harassment and dispersal of Roma with a partnership aimed at building a harmonious society based on fulfilment of primary needs.

In the presentation to be made at the Department for Communities and Local Government, the ERN says community values are an outstanding characteristic of migrant Roma, as well as of the older Romani groups and Pavees (Travellers) in Britain, who today total 500,000 people, half of whom are children.

"We believe if those same values were to be respected and fully reflected in a National Strategy," says Balaz, "Progress could soon be made towards ending the marginalization most of us are experiencing."

The delegation, which is drawing on input from groups including the Roma Support Group, Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and the Gypsy Council, is to seek an ongoing partnership with government in putting together and monitoring a revised strategy.

The FGLG has announced that it will release this autumn a report on what it sees as the inadequacies of the present UK National Strategy. This Shadow Strategy is intended to form the basis for a lobbying campaign to bring about radical changes.

At the same time, the Gypsy Council points out that anti-Gypsy measures have cost 300m euro since 2000. That includes over 12m euro on the futile operation to clear Dale Farm, where families still await re-accommodation.

Currently, instead of adopting a real National Strategy, the Coalition Government with only months left in office, still has 'under consideration' a set of recommendations made by a ministerial working group that included no Roma representatives.

This despite the fact that the EU Framework on Roma integration lays down that National Strategies are to be designed 'in close co-operation' with Roma NGOs and other stakeholders.

The Traveller Movement asserts that the Government's position is 'disappointing and unacceptable given the chronic exclusion, poverty and daily discrimination experienced by the majority of our communities.'

On a more positive note, Michael Daduc is asking the ministry to look upon his Roma Community Care project in Derby as an example of best practise that needs to be duplicated in many more centres around Britain.

The 8 April Movement points out that the upcoming meeting arises from the request delivered by Roma to Prime Minister David Cameron on Roma Nation Day, which was marked this year by a debate in the House of Lords.

A preparatory meeting will take place at 11 am on Thursday 31 July at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, 235 Shaftsbury Avenue, WC2H 8EP.

The appointment at the Department for Communities and Local Government is at 14.00 at Eland House, Bressenden Place, SW1E 5DU.



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