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Slovenia Weekly

A Little Bit of Empathy

08.04.2016

Photo: Mostphotos
Today is the International Roma Day. Europeans have never fully and completely accepted the once nomadic people who have, for centuries, been living in Europe, including Slovenia. In Slovenia, the Roma people are mentioned in the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia and their status is regulated by law. But in all fairness, their actual living conditions and, consequently, the possibility of their integration into the society depend significantly upon where in Slovenia they live. Regardless of the rights that the Roma people enjoy as a community, it all depends on whether the society accepts them or not.

Education is one of the key elements of integration; it is therefore important that, just yesterday, the Government has endorsed the project named “Together towards Knowledge”, which is co-financed by the European Social Fund. The project aims to increase the number of "Roma assistants", who represent some type of a bridge between approximately 32 primary schools and 18 kindergartens and the Roma settlements.

In this view, it is easy to draw parallels between the situation of the Roma people in Europe and the current problems faced by refugees and migrants. When millions of people, fleeing war or poverty, knocked on the doors of Europe, some of its 500 million inhabitants immediately assumed a defensive position, which was reflected in a sharp rise of intolerance.

Unfortunately, Slovenia is not immune to intolerance. Nevertheless, the country started to follow the same approach as the one employed by Germany and Austria, initiating an integration process for those who decided to apply for asylum in Slovenia (approximately three hundred people). However, it is difficult to motivate people to integrate into a society that does not want them on its territory. The amendments to the Dublin Regulation, which were proposed by the European Commission, are heading towards the “stay away from the European doors“ direction as well.

Regardless of the bureaucratic obstacles, the truth is that Syrians, Afghans and Eritreans will still come and knock on our doors. Or somebody else will. Just as the Roma people did centuries ago.

A little bit of empathy and hospitality shown by each of us, and especially by the national leaders and political elites, could prevent a more pessimistic scenario which is now on the horizon.

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