Article by: Daniel Peslari
Somewhere in Europe, more to the East, the rulers of a city have learnt a lesson, taught by the president of a great country, more to the West. The lesson is called ‘How to get rid of those who we don’t want’. The lesson was taught in late August 2010, and now the Eastern city is applying its learnings in the depths of winter.
The city we are talking about is Cluj-Napoca and, of course, the ‘great’ example is France. The fact is some Roma families living in the town with legal papers and paying the bills and the rent every month were forcibly removed from their homes in the city, and sent to a notorious ghetto called Pata Rât, where the air is unbreathable due to its proximity to the city’s landfill and to a medicinal factory. Moreover, these families have children who used to go to school in their neighbourhood, and the adults used to go to work in the town. In December 2010, over two days at -10? Celsius they were moved from their homes and sent to Pata Rât to start a new life amidst the rats and rubbish, often in extremely cramped living quarters (12 people in a room of 16m²). The case is being monitored by Amnesty International and other Romanian and international NGO’s that defend human and Roma rights, including European Alternatives, and also by the Presidential Councilor for Minorities.
After a public debate hosted by the University Babe?-Bolyai on Monday, which the representatives of the Town Hall didn’t attend, but sent an ‘objective’ letter, the organizers decided to protest in public against the forced removals. At the protest alongside the Roma were some civic organizations such as Amare Phrala, Grupul de Ac?iune Social? Cluj and European Alternatives. They all shouted “Dignity, not racism!”, “School, not ghetto!”, “We are all equals!”, “We want justice!”, “We don’t want discrimination!”…
Also present were Roma students and Romanian citizens who understand that defending Roma rights means defending their own rights to a normal life, to justice and to free expression. But it’s sad that even though the mayor said he is willing to talk, the prospect of the situation changing is minimal, because the law in Romania is so permissive, the rulers can do almost everything they want, and because civil society here is almost powerless.
Thank you President Sarkozy, thank you Mayor of Cluj-Napoca for being such great examples of social and (I dare to say) European solidarity!