Hearing :: The Escalation of Violence against Roma in Europe


Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe:  U.S. Helsinki Commission

Building Bridges – or Burning Them?
The Escalation of Violence against Roma in Europe

Andrzej Mirga,
Senior Adviser on Romany Issues,

Dezideriu Gergely,
Executive Director,
European Roma Rights Center

The Hearing Was Held at 2:00 p.m. in B-318 Rayburn, Washington, D.C., 
Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ) Moderating 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C. 
REPRESENTATIVE CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ):  The commission will come to order.  
And let me begin by expressing my apology for being so late.  It’s 45 minutes 
after we were supposed to start.  We did have a series of votes – five votes – 
on the floor.  And so I do apologize for that.

I’d like to welcome everyone for joining us this afternoon, particularly our 
witnesses who have traveled here from Europe to be able to testify today before 
the Helsinki Commission.  We appreciate your dedication to the human rights and 
dignity of the Romany people, probably the most discriminated against and 
disadvantaged people in Europe today.  

Roma, Europe’s largest ethnic minority, has faced discrimination and worse for 
hundreds of years.  In parts of Europe, they were even literally enslaved as 
late as the 19th century, when our own country was battling this evil, and in 
the 20th century were the victims of German genocide during World War II.   An 
estimated 500,000 Roma were exterminated by Nazi Germany and its accomplices.  

In 1990, hopes for the democratic transitions under way were enormous.  And the 
OSCE was likewise optimistic that it would play its part in ensuring that Roma 
would be equal sharers in the benefits of freedom, democracy and the free 
economy that it would bring.  But the 1990s were difficult years for Roma, who 
were faced with – (inaudible) – murderers and other acts of violence and police 

With a view to that violence, I wrote then-secretary – assistant secretary for 
democracy, human rights, and labor, Harold Koh, regarding Romany human rights 
and religious freedom, and urged the State Department to be sure that these 
issues were fully covered in the State Department’s annual country reports on 
human rights practices.  The commission became increasingly active on Roma 
human rights issues.  In 2002, we held a Helsinki hearing on the situation of 
Roma.  In that same year, my resolution on improving equal opportunities for 
Roma in education was adopted by the OSCE parliamentary assembly.  

Though about 10 years ago many countries began to implement measures to stem 
the violence, resulting in fewer attacks and more accountability when attacks 
occurred, the sad fact is that these positive developments have not – I repeat 
– have not been sustained.  

To make matters worse, in recent years, there has been a terrifying escalation 
of violence against Roma, prompting the Helsinki Commission to hold a briefing 
on this issue in 2009.  The current wave of violence has resulted in horrible 
fatalities like the murder of the 5-year-old, Robert Csorba, in Hungary, who 
along with his father was killed by sniper fire when they tried to flee their 
burning house, which had been set afire by a Molotov cocktail.  

There are many cases of horrifying violence against Roma, people who have been 
maimed or disfigured for life, like the 13-year-old girl in Hungary shot in the 
face by the extremists who also killed her mother, or the toddler known as Baby 
Natalka in the Czech Republic who was burned over 80 percent of her body in a 
Molotov cocktail attack.

As we discuss today the anti-Roma mob attacks and demonstrations that continue 
to occur in several countries, we should ask what is the impact on families and 
children who huddle in their homes while a mob outside yells:  “Gypsies,” to 
the gas”?  Exactly this sort of thing is really going on in 2012.  The Roma 
still have to face such open savagery.  It’s beyond imagination.  

Yet, at the same time, many governments are voicing serious concerns about this 
situation.  One of the purposes of this hearing is to ask how well the 
solutions respond to the problem.  Every EU country is now working up a 
national strategy for Roma integration.  Do these strategies respond to the 
real gravity of the danger threatening the Roma?  

Likewise our own State Department has prioritized the rights of the Romany 
people.  And this has been implemented with real commitment by many ambassadors 
and human rights officers.  Yet the country reports on human rights practices 
has been uneven.  And so we will all have to continue to watch them carefully.  
They should be a touchstone of our government’s commitment to the human rights 
of the Romany people.  

Finally, we should also talk about humanitarian concerns.  In the 
post-communist countries, Roma have been the absolute losers in the transition 
to market economies.  Last year, the Hungarian minister for social inclusion, 
Zoltan Balog, said that their situation is worse today than it was under 
communism.  Over the past 20 years, Roma have been caught in a downward spiral, 
accelerating at exponential rates.  While they’re – they were at the bottom of 
the social ladder during the communist period, they are often off the grid, 
living in shantytowns, urban ghettos, or segregated settlements.  And I and 
members of this commission have visited.  I remember one visit to a Romany 
ghetto that was right next to a dump, and the smell of garbage was 
overwhelming.  And yet these individuals had to live there and raise their 
children there.  

A UNDP report concluded that Roma in five Central European countries live in 
conditions more typically found in sub-Saharan Africa than in Europe.  And I 
would note parenthetically, as chairman of the Africa subcommittee of the House 
of Representatives, I’ve been to many very, very poor places in Africa.  And 
when – what I saw at some of these Romany holds or townships has clearly 
approximated what I’ve seen in some of the most destitute places in Africa.  

But can governments really expect to make improvements with regard to other 
problems Roma face in housing, in employment, education and so on, if shocking 
acts of violence continue unabated?  That is the open question and part of what 
we hope to at least to begin to address today.  

We will begin by receiving testimony from our two distinguished witnesses, 
Andrzej Mirga, who is well-known in Washington.  Mr. Mirga is the senior 
adviser on Romany issues to the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and 
Human Rights or ODIHR.  He first testified in Washington in 1994 and has 
brought his considerable experience and insights to the Helsinki Commission and 
to all the other governments of the OSCE.  And we thank you for doing it for 
our commission as well.  We’re grateful for his leadership he brings to the 
OSCE on these issues.  Mr. Mirga, welcome back to Washington.

Our second witness will be Dezi Gergely, the executive director of the European 
Roma Rights Center.  The ERRC was established in 1996 and has spearheaded some 
of the most important litigation to protect the human rights of Roma.  Mr. 
Gergely, thank you again for being here today – and my fellow commissioners – 
and you have to know and I know you know this, but this record will be very 
widely disseminated to many opinion makers, but especially to members of 
Congress – House and Senate – and to our commissioners.  So this record becomes 
information that very often is actionable and gives us a blueprint as to what 
we should do, as well as the lay of the land as of today as you present it.  So 
I thank you again for being here.  

Mr. Mirga.  

ANDRZEJ MIRGA:  Thank you.  Mr. Chairman, I would like my full statement to be 
included into the record. 

REP. SMITH:  Without objection, so ordered. 

MR. MIRGA:  Honorable chairperson, distinguished members of Helsinki 
Commission, ladies and gentlemen, I would like first to express my gratitude to 
the chairperson of the Helsinki Commission for organizing this hearing on Roma 
and Sinti today.  I am grateful for the long dedication of Chairman Smith and 
Co-Chairman Cardin to the protection of human rights of Roma.  I also 
appreciate the statement made by Secretary of State Clinton about Roma human 
rights most recently in Sofia on February 5th.  

It’s a great opportunity to share with you our views and concerns regarding 
Roma and Sinti in the OSCE area with this important commission.  It’s the right 
time to address these issues as so – as some developments in recent years are 
highly disturbing and we need to speak up about them.  

I testified here with several Roma friends last time in mid-2009.  It was a 
time when the financial and economic crisis has erupted.  And we signaled the 
worrying developments that were evolving with regard to the Roma and Sinti.  
Today, with fiscal difficulties in number of European countries and a second 
economic crisis looming, I have to report to you that some of these concerns 
unfortunately have been come – have become reality.  No doubt the ongoing 
economic difficulties have intensified – (inaudible) – and exacerbated some of 
the negative trends I elaborated upon in the briefing in 2009.

On general note, let me underline that most problems facing Roma and Sinti 
population have by no means been resolved.  And for the most part, those 
minority has not yet benefited from lasting improvements in human rights and 
social inclusion.  This is unfinished (business ?) in Europe that requires much 
stronger and long-term interventions at national – at European level.  That was 
one of the conclusions in my 2009 briefing here, based on the finding of the 
so-called status report of 2008.  This conclusion is more valid than ever 

Currently, it seems the requirement for much stronger and long-term 
interventions is widely recognized.  As all major international organization 
and EU institutions are calling upon governments to step up their efforts to 
realize objectives regarding Roma and Sinti social inclusion, this is done 
partly as a response to a serious and dangerous rise in violence and 
intolerance against members of this minority in number of countries.  It comes, 
however, at a time when European governments face real fiscal and economic 
difficulties, making it a bad time to approach them on other issues.  
Governments are facing tough decisions from the introduction of austerity 
programs to reduce public spending and keep national debt under their control.  

In the past two years, in the context of deepening economic hardship, we have 
witnessed a number of disturbing developments.  There was the crisis related to 
Roma migrants in France.  We have seen the rise of tensions in extreme of – 
with extreme right or known as a group in North Bohemia of Czech Republic.  We 
have seen mass protests against Roma in number of cities in Bulgaria, followed 
with the incidents in Katunitsa near Plovdiv.  

In most of these situation, we have seen populist, extremist – extreme right or 
neo-Nazi groups actively exploiting anti-Roma prejudice, sometimes generating 
hostility or instigating violence against the Roma and Sinti communities.  We 
are concerned about current public discourse of Roma and Sinti that revives 
past anti-Roma rhetoric centered on the image of them as a nomad, viewing them 
as a burden to social system, or as a danger for public security and order 
based on alleged gypsy criminality.  

Roma and Sinti migration has become a key challenge.  And it will likely to 
remain so for some times.  The social stigma associated with Roma and their 
visibility as migrants will continue to heighten the risk of discriminatory 
practices and social exclusion in countries of destination.  The rise in open 
and often radical anti-Roma politics and policies at local level is another 
challenging and new phenomenon.  

We witnessed local authorities and mayors actively pursuing policy aimed at 
forcing Roma and Sinti from their communities.  Exclusion or separation is 
openly advocated in some municipalities, including in the segregation of 
children in the educational system.  There are also cases of refusal by local 
authorities to accept or request state aid aimed at supporting Roma 
communities.  (Inaudible) – in the past have been focused on providing 
assistance to newer democracies and states in crisis or post-crisis situation.  
Today and likely over the new – next future – near future, such assistance will 
be provided to consolidate it in young democracies in instances of hate crime 
targeting Roma and Sinti – as instances of hate crimes targeting Roma and Sinti 
may become a recurrent issue there.  

Parallel to this worrying development, we are witnessing more promising efforts 
and initiatives aimed at ensuring Roma human rights and social inclusion.  The 
most important are the new agenda of the European Union of Roma.  The EU has 
both the political and financial tools to enforce some measures on its members 
some think the other organizations don’t have.  Most recently on April 5th 
2011, the commission issued a communication on EU framework for national Roma 
integration strategy, which was endorsed by the council in June.  The framework 
commits all 27 member states to develop of targeted policies that 
systematically tackle the socio-economic exclusion and of discrimination 
against the Roma people in the EU.  

This complex EU agenda on the Roma and Sinti has been overshadowed, however, by 
the euro crisis itself.  Much of the response to the question of how this new 
effort of the EU regarding Roma can be successful and lasting will depend on 
the response to other question, how will the EU resolve the present crisis and 
how long it will take to recover from it?  Surprisingly little has, however, 
appears to have – having been paid to its possible negative impact on the most 
socially and economically disadvantaged group in societies, like Roma and 

There seems to be a somehow parallel discourse of Roma disconnected from 
ongoing debates and concerns.  The report recently commissioned by the EU on 
use of its financial and policy instruments with regard to Roma are in most 
parts critical.  Minimal progress has been achieved.  Disproportional funds 
were used to produce short-living outcomes.  The effective use of – (inaudible) 
– has been also questioned.  

To conclude this part, prospects in near – in short terms appear poor in fields 
where there has been some constant, if minor, improvement in the past, such as 
in education, housing, political participation, or Roma representation in 
public media.  A number of participating states that appear to have been 
set-backed into area mentioned – (inaudible) – as the gaps between standards 
for Roma and Sinti and the majority population have been in fact widening.  
With few social and economic indicators showing improvement in situation of 
Roma, the evidence of increased – increasing hostility toward the communities 
among – (inaudible) – Roma in some states, these disturbing trends might not 
just continue, but could very well worsen.  

The last part of recommendation I will – I may leave for later.  And in 
discussion, I may elaborate more on this.  Thank you.

REP. SMITH:  Mr. Mirga, thank you very much for your testimony and the 
comprehensiveness of it and the longstanding nature of your commitment on this 
and other issues, but specially the Roma.  Thank you so much.  

Mr. Gergely?

DEZIDERIU GERGELY:  Mr. Chairman, I would like to take this opportunity to 
extend my gratitude on behalf of the European Roma Rights Center to be invited 
to this prestigious even in order to testify about the human rights situation 
of Roma in Europe.  And with your – with your approval, I would like my full 
statement to be included in the record.  

REP. SMITH:  (Off mic.)

MR. GERGELY:  Distinguished representatives of the commission, ladies and 
gentlemen, a recent European Union survey on minorities and discrimination 
highlights that on average, one in five from our respondents were victims of 
racially motivated personal crime at least once in previous 12 months.  
Eighty-one percent of Roma who indicated that they were victims of assault, 
threat or serious harassment considered that their victimization was racially 
motivated.  Between 65 percent and 100 percent of Roma in the surveyed European 
countries did not report their experiences of personal victimization to the 

The main reason given by the Roma was that they were not confident that the 
police would be able to do anything.  This lack of confidence is not surprising 
to someone familiar with Roma in Europe, and I will explain why.  Two weeks 
ago, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers adopted an official 
declaration to express deep concern about the rise of anti-Gypsyism and violent 
attacks against Roma, which constitute a major obstacle to the successful 
social inclusion of Roma and a full respect of their human rights.  

The fact is that the racist or stigmatizing anti-Roma rhetoric has been on the 
rise in public and political discourse, including accusations that Roma, as an 
ethnic group, are engaged in criminal behavior.  There are well-documented 
examples from France, from Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, or Czech 
Republic.  And in some cases, these words were understood as – as encouraging 
violent action against the Roma, such as mob riots or violence.  Extremist 
groups, political parties, and politicians have sharpened their anti-Romany 
rhetoric and actions, galvanizing segments of the public against Roma in 
Hungary, Czech Republic, Lithuania in particular, or Bulgaria.  Anti-Gypsy 
stereotypes also continue to be spread and perpetrated in the media across 
Europe, which reports primarily on Roma in the context of only social problems 
and crime.  

Violence against Roma remains a serious problem not only because it harms Roma 
directly affected by the attacks, but because Roma as an ethnic group are 
impacted by the lack of effective response by state authorities.  In 2011, the 
European Roma Rights Center published a report examining the state response to 
44 selected attacks against Roma in Czech Republic, in Hungary and Slovakia.  

And a number of shortcomings in the state response to violence against Roma are 
apparent.  Many Roma victims of violent crimes do not secure justice.  A 
limited number of the perpetrators of violent attacks Roma are successfully 
identified, investigated, and prosecuted.  Even fewer are eventually imprisoned 
for the crimes they have committed against Roma.  

At the time of publications, judgments finding the perpetrators guilty have 
been reached in nine out of the 44 selected cases.  Of those nine cases, only 
six resulted in imprisonment; several are under appeal.  And three resulted in 
suspended sentences or fines, including persons with known affiliations to 
neo-Nazi groups in the Czech Republic, for example.  

Police investigations were suspended with no perpetrator identified in 27 
percent of all the cases.  Racial motivation was confirmed in only three out of 
44 selected cases of violence against Roma.  In 11 other cases, racial 
motivation is included in the indictment of impending cases, and in 50 percent 
of all the selected cases racial motivation of the crimes committed against 
Roma was ruled out or not confirmed.  

The failure of law enforcement authorities to identify the perpetrators of 
crimes against Roma in a considerable number of investigations creates a 
climate of impunity and may encourage further acts of violence against Roma.  
The issuance by courts of only suspended prison sentences to persons found 
guilty of serious crimes against Roma reinforces the message that it is OK to 
attack Roma.  

Recognition of racial motivation in such a small number of cases may indicate a 
low level of importance placed on aggravating circumstances of the crimes 
committed and may fail to account for the full nature of the attacks.  These 
findings may have a serious negative impact of the will on the Romany 
individuals to report crimes committed against them to law enforcement 
authorities, and explains the results of the European Union survey on 
minorities and discrimination.

How can governments put an end to impunity and restore the confidence of Roma 
in law enforcement and reduce the level of violence?  First, governments must 
adopt a zero-tolerance policy against racist speech uttered by public 
officials.  All such racist speech should be immediately denounced and the 
responsible official removed from his or her job.  Racist speech by private 
actors should be also vigorously condemned by government at the highest level.

It is important that the government distinguish between free expression, which 
must be protected in a democratic society, and acts of intimidation, which must 
be strongly suppressed through acts of law enforcement.  The spectacle of 
neo-Nazis carrying flaming torches through Roma settlements, shouting 
anti-Romany epithets, preventing people from going to their jobs or to schools, 
as occurred in several countries – Hungary or Bulgaria, for example – must not 
be allowed to recur.

Most important of all, governments must take a firms stance against racially 
motivated violence.  They should guarantee speedy and effective investigations 
and prosecutions of all crimes committed against Roma, and identify any racist 
motives for such acts, so that the perpetrators do not go unpunished and 
escalation of ethnic tension is avoided.  Governments should ensure full 
assistance, protection, and compensation for the victims of violence.  

Last year, the EU launched an important process to promote Roma integration, 
focusing on education, on health, employment, and housing.  Member states of 
the EU are obliged to develop and implement strategies for such integration, 
but it is crucial that the states recognize the interdependence of inclusion 
and anti-discrimination.  Any strategy developed to improve the social and 
economic integration of Roma must include measures combating discrimination and 
addressing anti-Gypsyism.

The United States has long been a leading global example in ensuring the 
inclusion of minorities in society.  Last week, the U.S. announced its 
intention to become an official observer of the decade of Roma inclusion, 
another important European initiative designed to encourage Roma advancement.  
Here is how the U.S., from our point of view, can assist Europe as it tries to 
achieve true integration of Roma at all levels of society.

Offer assistance of U.S. law enforcement in addressing bias crimes against 
Roma.  Offer good practices as examples of promoting minority inclusion in 
education, in housing, health care, or employment.  Offer financial assistance 
to civil society organizations in Europe addressing anti-Roma discrimination 
and rights violation.  Thank you very much for your attention.

REP. SMITH:  Thank you very much for your testimony and your extraordinary 
leadership on this very, very important human rights issue.  Let me ask you a 
couple of questions, starting off with the anti-Roma riots, which are 
increasing.  The fact that they’re occurring throughout EU countries is 
shocking in and of itself.  

And then some have the gall to call it demonstrations – which is, you know, a 
misnaming to a huge extent.  What proactive steps are the governments taking to 
mitigate this incitement that’s occurring, and much of the violence that ensues 
from these bogus-called demonstrations, these riots?  Mr. Mirga?

MR. MIRGA:  The question you pose brings some challenges because we, in fact, 
do not have much to report as positive steps to counter such phenomena like 
extreme right and what they do campaigning against the Roma.  We know about 
some steps taken, for example, into the public to (prison ?) some of the 
leaders of the extreme right, but they are finding way to get out of course.  
And we know about some steps in Hungary to – (inaudible) – for example, but 
they are reappearing under new name, yes?  So they are still able to organize 

I think that the main objective of these kind of groups is to benefit during 
the election time, yes, because they are trying to get public support by 
staying up, at that time especially, anti-Roma slogans, rhetorics, because they 
believe this can give them votes.  And as we warned in 2009 when I was here, I 
said that one test case will be – (inaudible) – and just after we landed it 
became the – (inaudible) – in the country.  So that is a telling story.

I – we also know about some cases which were very positively handled, like in 
the case of Natalka in Czech Republic, and the court sentence the perpetrators. 
 But after we had some statement of the state of issues which a little bit 
undermined – or trying to undermine the court sentence which, again, is 
something which should probably not happening in this situation.

So we are kind of – we receive some something like ambiguous messages, yes?  On 
one hand we see some reaction which is proper – as I said for example, court 
cases are highly appreciated, but again from the politicians we are receiving a 
mixed messages, which as I said, should be here – the line should be kept and 
the message should be one:  condemning such situations.

REP. SMITH:  Thank you.  

MR. GERGELY:  I would only like to add the fact that even though we cannot name 
these proactive measures, what is extremely crucial is speed and effective 
response.  Unless the government does not react to violence riots or mob riots 
attempting to attack communities, which happened in several countries – as long 
as there is no reaction in defending these communities, of course that it would 
spread out.  And this is the case of Bulgaria, where last year we could see in 
more than 15 cities mass protests against the Roma communities.  

The state response was initially slow.  When the law enforcement officials 
reacted, they could manage the mobs.  In Czech Republic is the – it was the 
same.  It is even interesting that when the mobs were stopped by the police, 
the mobs were shouting:  You are defending gypsies.  So law enforcement 
officials haven’t defended gypsies.  This is what they have to do, to act and 
to ensure protection.

REP. SMITH:  Mr. Mirga, let me ask you, as you know, OSCE-participating states 
are charged with collecting hate crime data and providing that to ODHIR.  Have 
the – have the countries provided information on these hate crimes to ODIHR as 
it relates to Roma?

MR. MIRGA:  We – with TND (ph) and other departments – we are preparing such 
reports every year.  There is a standard question of central governments who – 
to get some response to.  In fact, we are receiving very few information from 
countries about the cases of irrational hate crimes – (inaudible).  

REP. SMITH:  Did they give an explanation?  And could you provide to our 
commission those countries that have responded and those that have not?  And do 
you find the quality of that information is – you know, are you encouraged that 
those that do respond are actually doing a – their due diligence?

MR. MIRGA:  Well, we are trying to encourage –

REP. SMITH:  I know you are, but I’m talking about the countries, in terms of 
their response.

MR. MIRGA:  Oh.  Yeah.  I think that governments who provide us information – 
there are few, yes; I don’t want to name them here.  But –

REP. SMITH:  Could you?  It would be helpful if you would.

MR. MIRGA:  – they are few – yes?  I’ll be – (inaudible) –

MR.:  Put you on the spot.

MR. MIRGA:  I (can’t ?)  

MR.:  OK.

MR. MIRGA:  – at the moment, yes?  But there are really few, yes?  And they’re 
– in general, we do not have much information.  So we have to rely on other 
sources coming from the civil society mostly, yes?  And this has to be checked.

MR.:  Exactly.

MR. MIRGA:  Yes.  We have, for example – yes, I am from Poland, yes?  And I am 
closely monitoring the situation because I am Roma from Poland.  And I have a 
good relationship with the minister of interior, and they are providing us in a 
letter if we wish to have, yes?  And they are providing.  In some countries, 
it’s more difficult to get such information.

REP. SMITH:  As the European Roma Rights Center has pointed out in a report on 
human trafficking, that research in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and 
Romania and Slovakia during early 2010 indicated that Roma represent 50 
(percent) to 80 percent of victims in Bulgaria, at least 40 percent in Hungary, 
70 percent in Slovakia, and up to 70 percent in parts of the Czech Republic.

Our own U.S. government TIP report – trafficking in persons report – and I 
would note parenthetically, I wrote the law.  It’s called the Trafficking 
Victims Protection Act that created our response, includes that TIP report.  
Well, in the annual report country-by-country, it makes for very disturbing 
reading.  Country after country, with regards to Roma – for example, in Hungary 
Roma victims are over-represented in trafficking victims from Hungary.  Roma 
women and girls who grew up in Hungarian orphanages are highly vulnerable to 
internal sex trafficking.  (Coughs.)  Pardon me.

With regards to Romania, that there are reports that ethnic Roma criminal 
groups in Romania (Romanians/Romanys ?) throughout Europe.  There is a very 
disturbing statement – and this runs through these – that some did not approach 
police out of fear of traffickers’ reprisals.  There’s others who said they 
didn’t want to go to the police because they’re not sure which side the police 
were on.

On – in Slovak republic the comment is made that the government’s poor 
relations with the Roma community resulted in significant problems in victim 
identification and prosecutions, including a government estimate that only 
one-third of all trafficking cases involving Roma are investigated.  In other 
words, two-thirds are not.  And it goes on and on, you know – you read country 
after country – you know, trafficking is modern-day slavery, whether it be 
labor or sex trafficking.

And as both of you know so well, the ODIHR and the OSCE is certainly absolutely 
committed, as are you are, Mr. Gergely.  Could you speak to the issue of 
trafficking of Roma, and elaborate on some of those numbers if you would?  And 
the fact that law enforcement ought to be absolutely, proactively and 
aggressively – as well as the governments that support law enforcement – on the 
side of these victims – please speak to.

MR. MIRGA:  As regard trafficking, it’s – ODIHR is involved in supporting some 
of the programs or project on antitrafficking.  And the focus is on the 
victims, yes?  We are trying to obtain some more concrete data from some 
countries, yes?  Recently we were very much focused provide some support to 
Albania, for example, and for some activities there on Roma who were trafficked 
and brought.  It seems to be one of the key issues for number of countries in 
Western Balkans, yes, this ongoing process.

To obtain, however, datas is one of the challenging thing.  We in fact missing 
concrete numbers, yes?  This regard that there is a number of agencies dealing 
with these issues, yes, and NGOs who are involved.  I was recently visiting 
Italy, where we were supporting some civil organizations dealing with 
trafficked Roma families – childrens, mostly.  And we visited a center for 
children trafficked in Rome, yes, where NGOs are taking care and taking them 
from the street there.  We visited families who were involved in – were victims 
of trafficking as well, and they were placed in some (camps ?).

We are trying to obtain more information how – what is the extent of the issue? 
 How numerous are this population, for example, in Rome, yes, and whether these 
countries from – aware they were trafficked.  Most of them were from Western 
Balkan countries, and some of them especially – (inaudible) – in from Romania.  
So that was what our findings was.  But again, to obtain concrete datas about 
numbers, it was quite difficult.  When we are working with trying to talk to 
those agencies – state agencies, police – we do not, again, get something 
concrete.  That is a main concern, that it’s difficult to get something real.

The other issue which emerged also in Italy and France and other countries is 
about the expulsion policy of – or the treatment of women and children who are 
sometimes on the street begging or doing other things.  We’re trying to talk to 
some of the governments that – the effort to get rid of these people, yes, from 
the streets, yes, and to deport them may – should be maybe rethinked, yes, 
because some of the – of the women with children may be victims of trafficking. 
 And for the second time you are just punishing them by deporting back in a 
very straightforward way; whereas those people may be a subject for care, 
because we have to recognize who is a real victim and who is not a real victim 
of the trafficking.

And here I think still there is very little understanding of the part of the 
enforcement bodies who would like to see these women, children as a – simply 
organized by mafia, yes, and disregard that they consider that they are 
victims.  They are expelling the women if – without due consideration for their 
situation.  And it is something concerning.

MR. GERGELY:  I think that there are a couple of issues which we have to 
underline when we speak about trafficking, as well as when we speak about hate 
crimes or other similar, related areas.  And on the first place, we have to be 
aware of the fact that the Roma minority – it is placing a major discrepancy 
situation in comparison with the majority of the populations in the – in the 
European countries.  In terms of social, economic, educational situation, this 
low level puts them in a – in extremely high risks, in terms of being victims 
of trafficking or being victims of other sort of crimes.

There are two things which we have to underline here.  First of all, there is a 
lack of desegregated data on the basis of ethnicity, when we are speaking about 
minorities which are victims of trafficking.  We do not have the information to 
what extent – and when I – when I say information, I am saying official 
information coming from the governments – on to what extent this phenomenon is 
affecting the Roma minority.

And secondly, due to this fact that we are lacking official data, we lack also 
policies targeting these particular groups which are affected by the 
trafficking, for example.  So basically we do have – we do have policies which 
are targeting trafficking, but we do not have targeted policy to the victims of 
traffickings – in our case, the Roma women or children.  So this is something 
which needs to be addressed.

REP. SMITH:  Are groups like IOM and others at least attempting working with 

MR. GERGELY:  There are several examples of cooperation –

REP. SMITH:  Yeah.

MR. GERGELY:  – of course.  But the problem is that – when you have a state 
policy which is not targeting by its policy a vulnerable group, and seeing 
exactly the extent of the situation and trying to really tackle in a particular 
way that phenomenon – it’s really hard to see improvement.  And unfortunately 
we can see the same situation in other areas of concern.  We are lacking data 
on health situation; we are lacking data on the unemployment situation; we are 
lacking data on several areas.  And because of this lack of information, we 
don’t know, first of all, to what extent we have the problems; and secondly, to 
what extent the governments are addressing the problems fully or not.

REP. SMITH:  Let me ask you with – the recent European court case which 
concluded that sterilization of a Romany woman in – from Slovakia violated the 
European Convention on Human Rights – called it cruel and inhumane.  And I 
understand there are at least five more similar cases pending against Slovakia. 
 Obviously forced sterilization is an egregious form of violence.  Is it 
continuing?  Is it systematic?  Your view on that?  And then I’ll yield to my 
colleague, and then I’ll come back to some additional questions.

MR. GERGELY:  First of all, of course, this is a major decision from the 
European Court of Human Rights.  And it has a major impact on this topic.  I 
have to say that there are several similar cases pending before courts in other 
countries as well.  And I would only name the Czech Republic, for example, 
where there are a couple of cases pending before the national courts.  Last 
year there was a successful case before the supreme court which acknowledged 
this.  And a victim had received compensation.  There is a similar situation in 
Hungary as well.  There are – there are cases before national courts pending 
until now.  And also, as you mentioned, there are several cases pending before 
the European court.

Now it is quite difficult to state whether this phenomenon is systematic still. 
 But what it is clear is that, in several member states, there is a lack of 
ensuring process of compensation for victims of sterilization.  We have to say 
that many of these victims were sterilized during the communist regime, so 
before ’89.  And they could not raise those cases at the time.

REP. SMITH:  Like in China, where women are routinely forcibly sterilized.

MR. GERGELY:  So – yeah.  We have to take into account and – that in several 
countries, there are time bars.  So for a victim, it’s really difficult to 
raise a case now after 20 years.  So I think that what we need here is from the 
governments to take a positive step in – to ensure, on the first place, a 
compensation procedure for the victims; and secondly, to ensure that such acts 
will not be repeated anymore – meaning that you have to have a full and 
informed consent when you deal with such a situation.  Without any consent, we 
cannot speak about – right.

REP. SMITH:  Well, you know, and just for the record, in places even like in 
Mexico, there are hospitals – they call them social security hospitals – where 
women, particularly indigenous women, give birth.  Unknown to them, they – in 
some cases they’ve gotten tubal ligations.  In other words, they’ve been 
sterilized.  And I’ll never forget – in work that I was involved in in Peru and 
still am – upwards of 100,000 women were sterilized, many of them at health 
fairs, when President Fujimori erroneously thought that one way to combat 
poverty was to eliminate the possibility of poor people giving birth to 
children who might be poor as well – a bit of a presumptuous thought to begin 

And I actually held a series of hearings on it, and it was amazing:  He took 
his impetus for that from the population conference in Cairo, that you need to 
adopt a sterilization mentality, and quickly crossed the line from voluntary 
sterilization to forced.  And it was – it was awful.  And so I’m glad you’re 
very much on the – on the forefront of trying to prevent and to provide 
compensation for those who have been so harmed by the government.

Oh yes, Mr. Mirga.

MR. MIRGA:  I will just say that we do not see that there is something like a 
systemic continuation of sterilization.  I think that the cases which were 
brought up very much contributed to raise awareness, yes, which is important.  
We still need to get to the compensation issue.  This is a – another step to be 
made, yes?  There are some cases of the national courts, yes, which recognize 
also that sterilization against Roma women.  And that is also very important, 
that it’s not only from the European level court, but also from the national.

So I believe there is a step forward, but we have to push a little bit farther 
to get to full – fully to have – those who are doing this responsible for these 
acts, yes?  And compensation should follow.

REP. SMITH:  Robert?  Great.  I yield to Commissioner Aderholt.

REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT B. ADERHOLT (R-AL):  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Thank you 
for your testimony here today and for your presence.  One thing that we hear 
concerning this issue that was – (inaudible) – hearing is, we hear from a lot 
of extremist parties the – these – the anti-Roma sentiment.  But many examples 
of anti-Roma statements come from public figures associated with what we’d call 
normal parties or mainline parties across political spectrum.  My question 
would be, has extremism against the Roma gone mainstream?  And can you give us 
a more nuanced understanding of this phenomenon?

MR. MIRGA:  Thank you.  Well, we see a danger that rhetoric – anti-Roma 
rhetoric which pays can be adopted also by mainstream parties.  And this is 
kind of approach to pre-empt, maybe, the support for the extremists, so you are 
bringing in some kind of rhetoric to attract more voters during the elections.  
We notice – we observe that some of the mainstream parties or leaders of the – 
or member of the mainstream parties using the same, sometimes, language as it 
was in case of extreme-right parties.  Yes?

So it becomes more tolerable to speak the language which usually we associate 
with extreme.  And this is something really worrying.  Whether this is a 
pre-empting something or new strategy to get more votes, or simply people feel 
more free to speak racist language because they do not meet a strong reaction 
from the public or condemnation – this is something to discuss.  But we see 
this kind of phenomenon present.

The second thing is that we see in the Europe a tendency or trend that extreme 
parties are winning.  They are getting more votes, yes?  Finland, for example –

REP. ADERHOLT:  Did you say Finland?

MR. MIRGA:  Finland, yes; and nationalist extreme-right party made some 
winning, yes?  U.K., for the first time, extreme right get into Parliament.  
(Inaudible) – we already talked about, yes?  So in the number of countries, you 
can notice this trend that those who are playing with anti-immigrant, 
anti-minority, anti-Jew, anti-Roma, anti-Muslim – they are getting votes.  This 
pays.  And this may be attractive strategy for mainstream parties, because they 
may become losers, yes?  They will – if extreme will win, they will lose.  So 
they have to think how to eventually – what kind of strategy they have to 
develop.  The easiest seems sometimes for some of them to be a little bit 
radical and play for these voters who are in the crisis trying – maybe because 
of the crisis they are getting a little bit more sensitive to extreme 
rhetorics, yes?

And this is something worrying.  And we saw first kind of test case in Hungary 
in 2000 during the last local – parliamentary election, when they get like 15 
percent of votes.  We are now approaching Slovakia’s elections, yes?  SNS 
already is playing with anti-Roma rhetorics openly.  But we are also hearing 
mainstream politicians who are talking similar language.  

And this is really concerning.  This is – this is something which is a danger, 
yes, because it’s like a disease, yes?  You can maybe think that this virus – 
you are strong, you can overcome it.  But maybe this virus will cause a damage 
to you.  So we have to warn a little bit mainstream politicians about the way 
they think they can play at politics in future.  This is a danger.

REP. ADERHOLT:  OK.  Yes, could you?

MR. GERGELY:  If we would go back in time for 10 years or a bit more, we would 
see that what was different from today is exactly the political discourse or 
politics in general.  If you are looking now into what is happening in several 
European countries, we would very clearly see that politics has been 
deteriorating a lot.  Now, there are many things which we have to consider.  
Anti-Romany sentiment or anti-Romany prejudice was all there.  It – 20 years 
ago it was the same high level of anti-Romany sentiment.

But now we see a gap which has been widened between the situation of the – of 
the Roma and the majority of the population.  We have the economic crisis.  The 
economic crisis in Europe has affected the majority of the population, but had 
a much greater impact on the vulnerable groups and in particular on the Roma 
communities.  This widening of the situations, this big difference is fueling 
prejudice, rejection, exclusion of this minority – the Roma minority in 

Now, the economic crisis has – it is playing an important role in terms of the 
feeling insecure as a mainstream citizen.  You cannot feel but insecure about 
what is happening.  Having this situation, there is an erosion of trust in 
governments, there is a lack of trust in the political environment.  So the 
parties have to find something in order to counterbalance this erosion.  So 
what is that?  It is exactly on minorities, immigrants, criminality, Roma.

Playing – putting this issue on the table in terms of political debate and 
mixing up with the insecurity of the majority of the people, it seems that it 
works, it pays votes, you know?  So we have the case of France, when mainstream 
government representatives have been involved in anti-Romany rhetoric.  We have 
the case in Italy where the same – mainstream government representatives have 
been involved in anti-Romany rhetoric.

And then we go to Central and Eastern European countries – Czech Republic, 
Hungary.  In Slovakia now, for example, in the political debate – in the 
political campaigns we can find banners on the streets:  How long do we have to 
pay for the Gypsies?  This should stop.  So it is an issue for political 
campaign.  And if in 15 – if 15 years ago only extreme right parties or extreme 
right movements were playing this card, now it is played by the mainstream as 
well because, at the end of the day, it pays votes.

REP. ADERHOLT:  Thank you.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. SMITH:  Commissioner Aderholt, thank you so very much.  Let me just ask a 
couple of final questions and then ask you if you have any final comments you’d 
like to make.

Mr. Mirga, you mention in – that there is a need for more Roma in police 
forces.  I would just note, parenthetically, there may be a model that needs to 
be replicated throughout all of Europe, and that’s Northern Ireland.  I 
actually chaired 11 congressional hearings, including – in the Subcommittee on 
Human Rights, which I chair, and our commission here, on the need for 
integration of Catholics into Northern Irish police force.  

It used to be called the RUC, the Royal Ulster Constabulary.  And Mr. Patten, 
the foreign minister for the EU, former – very distinguished career – authored 
what was known as the Patten Report that made sweeping recommendations to 
London as to what they needed to do to make that police force more responsive.  
 And I always argued that I felt that was the Achilles’ heel.  You don’t get 
peace if you don’t have a police force that’s fair and unbiased, professionally 
trained, has a human rights focus to it.

And I’m wondering if there’s any attempt to try to take the Northern Irish 
model and replicate it elsewhere, because they have recruited very fine 
officers, you know, through – in the Catholic community.  And now that force is 
working very cohesively.  If you ring up a policeman you’re not going to get 
somebody who’s – might commit a human rights abuse – although there are bad 
apples or bad policemen in any police force – but not based on sectarian 
issues, or at least it’s less likely now.

And I’m wondering, has there been a look at the – you know, the experience in 
Northern Ireland?  And secondly, what countries are getting that right and 
brining Roma into the police force?

MR. MIRGA:  Two years ago, together with SPMU from Vienna, we published a 
booklet on police and Roma – building trust between police and Roma.  It 
contains a lot of good practices collected from various countries about what 
police can do in multiethnic society, how they can increase representation of 
minorities in the police forces.  So a higher-end example probably is also 
included there.  

What we are trying now to do is to promote this booklet and to launch in 
national languages.  We had already two such launches – one in Romania, one in 
Hungary.  When we were in – on the field visit in Hungary we were paying 
attention to the issue of representation of Roma in police forces, especially 
because we had this number of killings there.  And we were meeting with Roma as 
well who are police officers.  At the time when we were in the field – on the 
field visit, the spokesperson for Roma – for national police was a Roma himself 
– a young, Roma police officer.  

In Vienna where we were launching the book we had three Roma officers – one, 
and this spokesperson of the police from Hungary – policewoman from Hungary, 
and Roma officer from U.K., from metropolitan police.  And he was a Czech Roma 
who migrated to U.K.  And there he became a police officer – the first ever 
Roma officer in the police force in U.K.  So we have some of their examples, 

In Hungary, for example, there is around 300 Roma in the police force.  It’s a 
significant number.  However, and paradoxically, in this country we had this 
series of attacks, yes?  During the elections, in this country, trade union – 
police trade union has agreement – has have agreement with Jobbik to support 
Jobbik.  So this is kind of a confusing messages, yes, coming from police 
forces – kind of exceptional situation, yes?

In some other countries – in Romania, there is number of Roma in the police 
forces as well, but less than in Hungary.  Some Roma are in police forces in 
Bulgaria, but not much, yes?  So this is something which should be encouraged 
and bring in more and more – and to have Roma and career – open career for them 
to be done.  And this can contribute, of course, to the improvement of their – 
of the integration of Roma into society.  So this is something still ahead.  

REP. SMITH:  Let me just ask you, with regards to countries like Germany that 
continue to deport Roma to Kosovo 13 years later, where the prospects of 
reintegration – unless it’s very carefully done could be a very, very painful 
experience, and especially when you have forced repatriation being a part of it 
– what is the status of that?  Is Germany and others still doing that?  And 
what happens when that person who was forcibly repatriated arrives in Kosovo?

MR. MIRGA:  Two years ago there was a briefing in U.S. – in the Bundestag.  I 
was part of this briefing on the situation of Roma of Kosovo and about the 
policy of Germany vis-à-vis those who are in Germany and supposedly should be 
going back, yes?  Our official position was that while Germany has a right to 
do what they do, because there was agreement – temporary protection was 
provided after the conflict where – to victims of the conflict, yes, including 
Roma – (inaudible) – and (Egyptians ?) – and when they considered that there 
are already safe conditions in Kosovo, so they should be going back.  

We were saying that maybe it’s a premature action.  It’s maybe not right 
timing.  There are still tensions there, economics – (audio break) – 
opportunities for those who are return are very minor.  So in fact, the 
decision to send them back, puts them in very bad situation after return there; 
the second – those who are returned may not be going to Kosovo itself, because 
some of them were asked where they want to go – to Belgrade or to Pristina?  
Most of them are choosing to go to Pristina, and – not to Pristina, to Belgrade.

When we were trying, for example, to identify Roma who were returned in Kosovo, 
it was very difficult to find people because they were already not there.  So 
maybe the policy of so-called voluntary or forced return is not effective at 
all, because people stay 10, 12, 13 years in Germany, living there, have their 
networks there, being with families, suddenly deported.  They will try to find 
a way to go back.

We were visiting also Roma communities in Mitrovica – southern Mitrovica, which 
is rebuilt now.  U.S. also leave some funding for rebuilding and closing in the 
– (inaudible).  And again, we are trying to find the people there from Germany, 
whether they are there.  We found one person, yes, a young 20-years-old man who 
spent half of his life in Germany, spoke perfect German, and who suddenly was 
taken, put on the airplane and send back.  And he was completely lost in this 
environment, yes?  All his family and friends are there.  So what he is doing 
here, yes? 

So my conviction – my point – my view is that Germany should rethink its 
policy, disregard that there are some agreements, they are – they are entitled 
to do this.  It might be not effective.  On the other hand, in Germany there is 
a movement among the Roma and supporters to argue to have them stay in Germany. 
 Romany Rose is one of the leading Roma activists in Germany who is advocating 
for this also with the government.  So there is a hope maybe that some of them 
may stay.

REP. SMITH:  Commissioner Aderholt.

REP. ADERHOLT:  Yeah, Mr. Chairman, if I could interject for just a minute.  I 
am between meetings, this is – I’ve been at a hearing all morning.  It’s really 
been a crazy day for hearings on the Hill today.  But before I do slip out I 
did want to ask about two countries in particular, the next likely candidates 
for NATO membership:  Montenegro and Macedonia.  What is your assessment of the 
situation of the Roma in those two countries just briefly?

MR. MIRGA:  As regards Macedonia, there is a significant Roma population, 
contrary to the – to Montenegro – there is very tiny Roma community, though in 
Montenegro you have a large number of Roma from Kosovo who left, yes, around – 
over 4,000.  And they are still living in camp, yes, where are very bad 

In Macedonia, you have, as I said, significant Roma population which benefited, 
paradoxically, from the crisis which was in beginning of 2000 with Albanians, 
yes?  There was the – (inaudible) – agreement, and – (inaudible) – agreement 
requires minorities, communities to benefit for equitable representation in 
public office, in employment.  And that pays also to Roma, not only to Albanian 
minority have – I should not say minority, yes, yes.

So because of that, you may see Roma represented in many offices of the 
government and authorities.  So there is a – in Macedonia, yes, there is a – 
actually a minister, a Roma, in the government; there is a deputy minister, 
another Roma; there are several directors in various departments.  So in this 
sense, Roma benefited because of the – (inaudible) – agreement, because it goes 
to all the communities in the country.

Another thing is what is the situation of Roma in terms of social, economic, 
human rights and so on?  This is a little bit different, yes?  We have a big 
municipality – Roma municipality in in Skopje.  It’s over 30,000 people with a 
mayor, council, built up by the Roma themselves, yes?  So Roma, visible in the 
country.  They are represented in some offices – not yet to the level they 
should because there’s a percentage which it was not reached yet.  But this is 
something progressing.  

Comparing this with Montenegro, yes, well, they started just now to have a Roma 
council.  And there is a consultation process with the Roma.  There is – there 
was a new census and – which included Roma and we know a little bit more now 
how many Roma are there.  This is important because of the representation 
eventually in the parliament.  If you reach some threshold, you can have 
representation in the parliament.  So this is something evolving also with 
regard to representation.

There are few educated people, though, in the country – around 20.  They’re 
educated and they are not working sometimes.  So one of the issues which we 
raised with them – with the government is that as an example of positive, 
(perhaps to act ?) as a role model for others to follow in education, they 
should give some jobs to – (inaudible) – educated in the country.  So we see 
some Roma who will be selected probably by the government to take some 

So as I said, main problem now for the Montenegro Roma population is Roma in 
the camp, yes, which is a big one in Podgorica – Konik camp, over 4,000 people 
living on the dump.  You mention sometimes the dump; it is live at the dump and 
they are there of course surrounded by other people as well, but the conditions 
are dire, yeah.  So there is an effort a little bit now to improve the 
conditions – living conditions there.  A commission is ready to put some money 
for rehabilitation, but we have to see how it will evolve in next years.

REP. ADERHOLT:  That’s very helpful, thank you.  Would you like to add 

MR. GERGELY:  Yeah, I would – just a few things about Macedonia.  In terms of 
positive developments, we might mention that the government has acknowledged 
the situation, has adopted a policy for improving the situation of Roma.  And 
another thing is that, as positive practice – is that Macedonia adopted a law 
for legalization of property rights, which might be of high importance for 
Roma, because that means legalizing informal settlements or providing 
recognition of property – land property for Roma.  So from this point of view, 
Macedonia is a good example to be mentioned.

It would be very interesting to follow up on the process of the implementation 
of this law, to see exactly if the Roma would benefit from this law in terms of 
recognition of properties, because you may know that housing is an outstanding 
issue for Roma communities.  They live in informal settlements.  Most of the 
times local authorities, they do not recognize the properties, the land – in 
particular land properties.  So this law could be of high importance for Roma.

On the other hand, in terms of the human rights situation, there are as well a 
couple of areas where Macedonia has to improve.  It’s not only the employment, 
education, health; but in terms of law reforms – for example, the legal 
framework for protecting against discrimination still has to be improved.  In 
education there are a couple of cases where the Roma children are enrolled in 
special schools for children with intellectual disability, even though they are 
not disabled.  So there are a couple of issues where Macedonia has to still 

REP. ADERHOLT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. SMITH:  Thank you.  Mr. Gergely, can I just ask you – I chair the Autism 
Caucus here in the United States, and actually wrote the law in ’98 and just 
did it again last year to put considerable money into autism best practices.  
And early intervention – beyond anything else that we might do, particularly in 
age two or three or four, and the earlier the better – can have a tremendous 
impact on whether or not that child has a better life as he or she grows into 

I’m working closely with some Europeans and the European Parliament on autism.  
It’s a big problem there.  I just chaired a hearing last year on global autism, 
and the estimates are that there are some 67 million people worldwide who have 
– are somewhere on the Asperger – either severely autistic or moderately.  And 
it’s just an emerging problem that we’re not sure what the trigger is, and 
there may be multiple triggers.

But it seems to me that autism – especially as it is all over Europe, all over 
the United States, has to be a problem.  And many kids, children in – who 
happen to be Roma, might be further disadvantaged because the early 
intervention initiatives are not available to them.  And I’m wondering if 
there’s been an effort to include them.

Education per se for Roma children is substandard because of inadequate 
response by governments anyway.  But this is above and beyond because it – 
testing needs to be done.  You know, just a general sense of, why is my child 
not behaving the way he or she ought to, may not trigger the response.  And if 
those social services are not there – and if the educational establishment is 
not working to help those kids – they are further disadvantaged.  Your thoughts 
on that?

MR. GERGELY:  Well, this is an outstanding issue for Roma children as well.  
European Roma Rights Center was involved in lodging several complaints on 
behalf of Roma childrens before the European Court of Human Rights.  And we 
have some – a couple of decisions, one against the Czech Republic, one against 
Croatia.  There is another decision against Greece.  And there are several 
example of cases before national courts – Romanya, Hungary.

It seems that it is a practice to enroll Romany children in separate classes, 
separate schools or special schools for mental disabled children, in the 
absence of any medical record that this children would need a special 
education, a special attention, paid for.  What we are advocating a lot is that 
Romany children have to be enrolled in mainstream schools.  The practice of 
segregating Romany childrens – either in segregated classes, segregated annexes 
to the schools or special schools – has to be ended.  And the decisions from 
the European court are in this regard.

The problem is that, in a lot of member states, there is a lack of reform in 
the educational systems.  The governments are a bit reluctant in reforming 
systems.  Czech Republic is maybe one of the – of the cases where we had a 
decision from 2007, and the government – it’s still struggling in reforming the 
educational system after five years from the decision ,when the government had 
to reform its system on the basis of the court’s decision.  And still that is 
not the case.  So we have several situations in other countries as well.  
Unfortunately it is a practice in Europe to put Romany children in segregated 
spaces, I would say.

REP. SMITH:  Could I ask you, with regards to autism, whether or not there has 
ever been a surveillance?  And again, going back to 1998, I introduced a bill 
that was signed into law in 2000 that required the Centers for Disease Control 
to set up centers of excellence, as we call them.  And it really came out of 
case work in my own district, where we thought we had a prevalent spike in 
Bricktown, New Jersey.  And when we started, or they started, doing their data 
cause – calls, they found out that other municipalities had a similar rise, 
inexplicable.  And we went from believing that the prevalence rate in the 
United States was one out of – three out of every 10,000 children to one out of 
every 110.

And I’m not sure – if they’re not part of the surveillance, large numbers of 
Romany children could be left further behind because their autism has not been 
discovered and early intervention and other – I mean, segregation for a 
severely autistic child is required, as long as they’re getting service that is 
commensurate with the problems that they face, so that they can become 
better-functioning.  But if it’s done just to – as you are clearly saying – to 
separate in a – in the way that African-Americans were separated in this 
country years ago, through laws that were just to set apart – that’s 
prejudicial and discriminatory and certainly totally unethical.  But I wonder 
if that’s been even looked into the way it ought to be.

MR. GERGELY:  It was not substantially looked upon, but the other problem is 
also the lack of proper testing procedure when they are applied through Romany 
childrens, because this is where the problem starts.  They are enrolled in 
special schools without being properly tested.  So basically they are tested – 
they are enrolled on the basis of a social-economic disadvantage, not on the 
basis of a medical ground.  This is what is happening.

REP. SMITH:  You know, just to – point for pondering:  We’re pushing more 
police understanding of what a severely or even moderately autistic child might 
be experiencing, because that child – as he or she becomes an adult – might fly 
off the handle, and a cop will respond in a way that then leads to an 

The child gets – young adult – incarcerated, and they’re dealing with a 
disability that made them prone or, you know, almost predetermined – given the 
right trigger – to respond negatively and then go to jail.  So we have children 
– young adults, I should say – in our own jails who shouldn’t be there, who are 
really – medical issues that went unaddressed.  And I’m sure they’ve got to be 
occurring within the Romany community.

Let me just ask one final question, and then yield to Erika Schlager, our 
expert.  You know, one thing about the – and you know this, I think – about 
this commission is that we are blessed with very, very talented and effective 
staff who make it their business, 24/7, year in and year out, to know, 
understand and work the issues, including the Romany issue – human rights 
issues.  So I will yield to her.

I just want to ask one final question on trafficking.  The – in your report, 
Mr. Gergely, you make it very clear that – and this is just one fact that you 
have in there – 24 percent of the Romany trafficked persons interviewed in this 
study, the “break into silence” study, had been in contact with the police, and 
only one case resulted in the imprisonment of the perpetrator.

You point out in the study, the overwhelming lack of support available to 
Romany trafficked persons negatively impacts the ability of many to 
re-integrate, leaving them highly vulnerable to retrafficking.  And of course 
that is true anywhere; it’s true here.  When they don’t get the kind of 
services that they need, soon as they’re back out on the street, if you will – 
even if rescued, the traffickers are waiting there to re-enslave them.

And you also in your recommendations say that there needs – and this would be 
to you, Mr. Mirga – to promote networking between Romany NGOs, Romany mediators 
and Romany community representatives to law enforcement and antitrafficking 
authorities, to combat trafficking in Romany communities.

And I’m wondering, since all of our countries now have plans of actions – or at 
least almost all, including the OSCE space – are they looking to put that piece 
in, so that the Romany – who are disproportionately trafficked – have those 
re-integration services available to them, so they’re not enslaved a second and 
a third and a fourth time?

MR. GERGELY:  Well, as I said before, the problem is that, in several 
countries, this is not acknowledged as an issue.  So therefore you do not have 
a policy which addresses this.  That’s why we recommended in the report that 
there should be a networking in place – meaning cooperation between the 
communities and the law enforcement.  This unfortunately is lacking because the 
law enforcement doesn’t see it as an issue which has to be tackled in a 
particular way.  But this is apply-able to other areas, unfortunately.

MR. MIRGA:  Yeah.  I think that one of the issues which should be raised here 
is neglect, yes?  Neglect, yes.  And this goes in many other areas, yes?  Not 
only in the issue of law enforcement and care about something like victims of 
trafficking, yes?  Because if they identify something like a Roma, well, this 
is kind of less an issue.  Similarly with education, yes, why Roma children are 
not in the school, and there is obligation for having them in the school.  
Sometimes school authorities just neglect their obligation to control and – 
(inaudible) – that they should be in school, not outside of the school.

So in this way, we can see that Roma are sometimes a second-class citizen, yes, 
whether in the situation of victims or in the situation of children who should 
be in school.  And we see this in many places.  And so something like – if we 
expect Roma to be included into the society, we should – and be treated equally 
or sometimes even positive discrimination applied – we have to – (inaudible) – 
of this kind of negligence – of neglect, closing eyes on the issues.

And we should apply strongly the existing law, yes?  If there is a convention 
of child protection – if there is a law which says, until, you know, secondary 
education a child has to be in school – authorities should enforce this, not 
just neglect – because you are Roma, we don’t care what you do.  So this is one 
of the source of being left out completely in many situations, including, you 
know, trafficking.

The second about – thinking about trafficking, I think we already pointed out 
that there is a real lack or a little bit of real commitments to fight against, 
yes?  I know the situation in some of the countries where – because of the 
pressure from outside, and providing funding – there were many agencies created 
to deal with antitrafficking.  But when you try to push to get some datas, what 
has been – how this was effective to prevent trafficking, you cannot get 
positive results.  It’s simply – the procedure is continued, and you do not see 
positive results.  So that is what is concerning:  multiplying agencies and 
institutions which absorb funding, various funding from donors, let’s say – but 
you do not see a real progress in stopping the process.

REP. SMITH:  I’d like to yield to Erika Schlager.

ERIKA SCHLAGER:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Two years ago, at the time of the 
murders in Tata, St. George, in Hungary, there was I think quite a lot of shock 
at the brutality of the murder of the father and son there.  And two prominent 
Romany Hungarian public officials spoke to this.  Florian Farkas warned that 
Hungary could be headed towards civil war, and Viktória Mohácsi said Roma would 
have no choice but to arm themselves or flee.  Without limiting yourself to 
Hungary – that is, speaking more broadly to this phenomena in Bulgaria, the 
Czech Republic, elsewhere – how do you view the prospect of interethnic 
violence?  Thank you.

MR. MIRGA:  I think that, in the situation like we had in Hungary, first 
reaction was to escape.  Yes?  You had a rise in people who were migrating, 
yes?  Similarly, in Czech Republic, we had a crisis where immigrants were going 
to Canada; Canada had to introduce visas.  Now we have again similar things in 
Western Balkans, when you have significant number of Roma asking for asylum, 
claiming the situation.

So I think first reaction is to avoid something like being targeted by some 
groups, by extreme, and leave.  Yes?  The second – if this is not a way out, 
yes, and you have to stay – so the potential for some – I would not say 
interethnic conflicts, but victimizing the weaker, yes, because Roma are not 
strong enough to stand up, yes?  So more kind of a violence against the Roma 
may happen.  And we warn that – against that, especially in the context of a 
continuing crisis, where you will see more austerity programs which will impact 
welfare transfers to Roma, who are mostly dependent on welfare.

So you may see this kind of situation where Roma can be victimized by majority, 
because there is a growing resentment against the Roma, yes, built up by some 
elements in society.  I would – in my view, I would not see this like a real 
conflict like we had with – let’s say, between Albanians and Macedonians in 
Macedonia, or like a real civil war.  But more like something which the weaker 
will be suffering more.  Yes?  So that’s what I feel may happen more often.

MR. GERGELY:  What I – what I would add is that the environment now is very 
critical.  The economic crisis in Europe on one hand, the deterioration of the 
political environment, the gap in terms of social and economic situation of the 
Roma – these factors put the Roma community at a high risk.  Of course that – 
when we see all these manifestations against the Roma taking place in several 
countries, when the political environment is changing – unfortunately not in a 
very positive way, but rather on negative way – you cannot but wonder where it 
would lead to.

So I think that the sentiment of the Roma communities is not a safe and a 
secure sentiment.  It’s one of insecurity; it’s one of lacking the feeling of 
being protected.  So it is extremely important that when member states are 
addressing the issues of the Roma communities, they are not focusing only on 
economic or social perspective, but rather they see it as an interdependent 
process with assuring human rights.  

If human rights are not protected, if you do not have a human rights-based 
perspective which is mixed with the social and economic perspective, and 
without having an inclusive approach, as long as we keep the Roma communities 
outside and the majority of the societies on the other side, we will never 
reach to a common ground, but we will be all the time parallel without reaching 

So I think that the member states has to really see this danger which is there. 
 And they should really put together this economic and social perspective, 
ensuring human rights protection.   That’s the most outstanding issue now.  

MR. MIRGA:  Just to add something with – to the question, yes.  We see 
something which is completely new, yes – mass protests against the Roma, yes.   
It never happened before.  You – we had eventually a community of violence, 
yes, local community was against Roma community.  That happened many times in 
many places since transition.  But to have somehow mobilized a large number of 
majority and have them going outside on the streets to protest against the 
Roma, this is something new.  And this very worrying, yes?  

Something new is also how extreme right is organizing people.  In North 
Bohemia, these groups are organizing protests and they are joined by normal 
citizens, young people, yes.  And these organizations are small, but they are 
mustering to have several hundred or thousand people going against the 
community, yes, against something – something new.  And that never – (audio 
break) – similar things were happening in the past.  And this shows the 
direction, yes, of how things can evolve, yes.   

That, as I said, you may have this kind of victimization of the weaker in this 
relationship, Roma-majority.  And we have to speak up about this.  We have to 
raise awareness about this.  We have also to ask U.S. to react to this.  
Governments have to realize that protection of the communities, the first, and 
to diffuse this kind of action which are undertaken by some elements of the – 
of the majority.  

I would like to, for example, to appreciate steps made by Bulgaria when the 
riots started and these mass protests were organized in several cities, they 
arrested several a hundred people.  And after, we do not hear any more about 
such organized protests against the Roma.  Also, what is positive thing – 
during the local elections, Ataka – they didn’t do well, they lost.  They had 
over 200-something councilors in the local elections in the previous time.  
Now, they have much less, like one-third of this, yes.  

So maybe either population or politician understood that such a(n) aggressive 
anti-Roma politics is not anymore right and it’s not – (inaudible) – so society 
didn’t buy it in general.  So I would like to encourage this kind of freedom, 
unwavering opposition of the leadership, yes, of the government, of the 
president, leaders of the mainstream parties which stands on principles, yes, 
and they saying, “This is not acceptable; we condemn this,” in a uniform voice, 
yes.  And that’s also what we would like to see happening from the U.S., that 
these strong messages about the principles are – should be going straight 
forward to a number of countries.  

REP. SMITH:  Mr. Gergely, is the United States – from the president to the vice 
president, secretary of state – speaking bold enough, with enough specificity 
to – on the Roma issues – to our European friends?  

MR. GERGELY:  Yes, they are.  I mean, the state secretary, Hillary Clinton, has 
a history in taking firm standing on Roma issues.  Of course, having a similar 
message from the president of the United States would be something which would 
very much have a very clear and outreaching message to the European countries – 

REP. SMITH:  Has he mentioned it?   Has the president of the United States 
mentioned it – (inaudible) – 

MR. GERGELY:  Not yet.  But it would be something – 

REP. SMITH:  Sure.

MR. GERGELY:  -- which would give a strong message for the – for Europe, I 
think – 

REP. SMITH:  Right.

MR. GERGELY:  -- in terms of protecting human rights for minorities.  We are 
looking very much forward for U.S. to have a similar standing and a position on 
Roma issues, as it was until now.  

REP. SMITH:  Thank you.  And I do have one final question.  The World Bank in a 
report suggested that if there was full integration of the Roma community into 
the labor market, that about a half a billion euros per year – annually, 
obviously – for some countries would be the result, of positive consequences.  
So it’s not just a human rights issue, a humanitarian issue, and a simple 
justice issues.  It’s also a very positive economic issue if full integration 
were to occur.  And I’m wondering is that appreciated by governments, that 
they’re missing out of a – of a positive economic benefit for the – for the 
rest of the community if they were to integrate?  

MR. GERGELY:  What I would – what I would say is if we – if we look around in 
Europe we would see that a lot of political commitments have been in place in 
terms of improving the Roma situation, a lot of governments have adopted 
policies for improving the Roma situation.  But unfortunately, the governmental 
commitments which we’re undertaking have been dissoluted (ph) at local level, 
which shows that in practice having a commitment is not enough.  

On the other hand, when the governments were adopting policies for improving 
the Roma situation, what they were missing to put there, beside the commitment, 
was the financial resources for implementing those policies.  So of course, in 
order to ensure employment, you need resources for providing trainings, for 
providing education, skills, and so on and so forth – jobs, market, formal 
market.  It’s not – it’s not easy at all.  It is – it is a long process.  It 
takes time.  But unfortunately, the governments are not committing their 
resources for implementing such policies.  

Now there is a lot of expectation from the European Union, because the European 
Union has adopted the framework communication on the policies.  Now all the 
member states are expected to develop and to have the policies for the next 10 
years.  There’s a lot of emphasis on the financial resources, because the union 
has the financial resources in place.  The only thing is that the member states 
have to apply for it.  You have to request, have to have the capacity.  

The reports from the European Union shows that the European funds absorption 
rates from the states are extremely low.  With other words, the states are not 
able to absorb the financial resources which the European Union puts in place.  
So now the question is if the – if the member states are absorbing less than 30 
percent of the available funds, how would they would be able – (audio break) – 
to absorb funds for Roma strategies?  So the outstanding question here is 
whether the states are able not to put their own money, but to get the money 
from the union in order to implement the policies for Roma.  

REP. SMITH:  Mr. Mirga.

MR. MIRGA:  Just to comment on your question, I think it is very valid 
argument, financial one, that governments is losing and because of large work 
power which is not utilized at all, to some extent of course, yes, because 
still if there is no will, this argument will not work, yes.  Politicians, 
government may just listen to, but they are not ready to, first, to invest to 
get after what is the return, yes.  If you have a, let’s say, sometimes 80 
percent of people not working, so how to mobilize these people if they have no 
skills, no education?  

So what we are saying, you have to adopt a long-term perspective.  You have to 
start with early education of new generations, yes, because if you will not 
start early and prepare the children to be equal with others in the school, 
they will never finish high school, they will never finish universities.  And 
now education is a key to enter labor market.  And there is a competitive labor 
market.  Some place people are young, educated and they are without jobs.  In 
some countries, it’s like 40 (percent), 50 percent of young people without 
jobs.  So imagine now Roma, who have 1 percent educated and they are 
discriminated, how they can enter the – such a competitive field.  So in order 
to really solve the issue, you have to have a long-term start from the 
beginning, invest this money and expect that maybe in 20 years there will be 
some (return ?).  

So the argument that now you can lose many money because they are not involved 
in may not work with many politicians at the moment.  So our hope is that, 
especially in the time of crisis where Roma even more are limited to take 
income and jobs, what we can argue is do more with education, right, starting 
from the beginning – 

REP. SMITH:  Are there countries that provide the proper incentives – 
scholarships, for example – that do better than other countries, particularly 
for higher education, so that those marketable skills can be learned?

MR. MIRGA:  Well, there are some countries who provide scholarships, yes.

REP. SMITH:  Who would you say is best?  You may not want to say, I understand.

MR. MIRGA:  The best?  Well, I can say some positive steps are taken in Poland, 
for example.  We have a scholarship system since already for six or seven 
years.  Each year we have like 50 students supported from the budget, yes.  
They are receiving monthly, like, 150 euros.  So this is a significant help.  
This is a significant support.  We have in Hungary a scholarship system.  We 
have in Romania reserved seats at the universities, yes.  

So there are a number of good – but it’s still small-scale, yes, project.  It 
should be more.  But you have to do also not at the only at the level of 
university, you have to take care that there is more children going through the 
system and reaching university.  Now is very small percentage which is able to 
pass through education and to reach university.

REP. SMITH:  You know, one of the greatest trainer of skills in the United 
States and I guess – I would suspect Europe as well – are the U.S. military, 
our armed forces.  How accessible are the militaries of respective countries to 
Romany young adults who want to enlist?  

MR. MIRGA:  I think – what I know about some countries is like, for example, in 
Central, Eastern Europe in former Czechoslovakia, yeah, army was a kind of a 
space where you can make a career.  Some of the leaders, present leaders, were 
(runt ?) officers in the army, yes.  I don’t know what is now at the moment, 
whether it’s still such openness, but I don’t feel that it not (such ?).  At 
that time, it was much easier to be subscribed to army and eventually some 
prospects was – 

REP. SMITH:  Is there any attempt on the militaries to recruit among the – 

MR. MIRGA:    This I don’t know.  How it is – whether or they are active, yeah, 
they are reaching out the community, here I cannot say.  It’s similar probably 
like in police; you may have some declarations, but openness of the forces are 
sometimes not so.  And there are also some inhibitions on the Roma side we have 
to be clear about as well, yes, to be in police, for example.  

REP. SMITH:  I want to thank both of you.  If you would like to make any last 
comment but – I’ll give you the last word – but you certainly made many very 
important and incisive recommendations.   Your commentary will be very widely 
disseminated.  And it helps us to do a better job.  And I am deeply, on behalf 
of my fellow commissioners, grateful to you for your leadership and for taking 
so much time out of your day, and really couple days, to be here to provide us 
that.  So I thank you.  If you would like to just make any final word or we’ll 
just conclude.  

MR. GERGELY:  I would just like to thank you for giving the opportunity of my 
organization to have this statement here.  

MR. MIRGA:  I would like maybe to make some short statement about the ODIHR and 
our cooperation with the EU.  

Last year, we were working closely with the – (inaudible).  We had a number of 
high level meetings with the government there to raise awareness about the 
needs for concrete action regarding Roma in Western Balkans who are in the 
pre-accession.  So the pre-accession has to be used differently how it was used 
in the past.  But this opportunity was somehow missed, because this is at the 
right time to exert pressure on the governments and to do more.  

We were also awarded with the EC grant to do project in Western Balkans.  It’s 
called Best Practices for Roma Integration.  And we were – we aim to work with 
all the countries there, including Kosovo, in identifying best practices in 
five areas and will try to implement them.  

In this context, I would like to thank also U.S. for supporting financially 
this project, made some contribution.  Germany made also some contribution to 
this money.  And we are grateful for that.  And at the end I would like to 
thank Erika Schlager, a professional staff member of the Helsinki Commission.  
I admire her as she is tireless in all her efforts, whether it’s in promote 
Roma rights here in Washington and the OSCE area.  This hearing is also thanks 
to her dedication.  So thank you very much, Erika.  Thank you.

REP. SMITH:  Thank you.  On that last word, the hearing’s adjourned.  Thank you.

MR. MIRGA:  Thank you.