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Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 01:48 GMT 02:48 UK
Europe's neglected race
Central European Roma boy
European Roma face discrimination
The Council of Europe has delivered a blistering condemnation on Europe's treatment of the Roma Gypsy community - saying they are subject to racism, discrimination and violence.

More than eight million gypsies are believed to live in Europe, and the UN says they pose Europe's most serious human rights problem.

Many of them are illiterate and outside mainstream society. The European Roma Rights Centre has also issued a statement calling on governments to adopt strong anti-discrimination laws without delay and take steps to integrate the Roma into society.

The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley has been to the Greek island of Rhodes to see how one community of Roma gypsies live.

Meet little Costas - 13 months old - an EU citizen, but being denied his basic rights.

Give me whatever you can, begs his mother. I need medicine.

It is pretty dreadful that behind the European vision, there is a reality like this, but it is even more shocking that right here, right now, nothing is being done to end it

A familiar scene perhaps - but what is less known is the story behind it.

This is where Costa lives. A camp of Roma gypsies which has been here for years - eight million throughout Europe, more than the population of Denmark. But outcasts from the European dream.

There is drinking water from the leaking standpipe - because an EU directive demands it.

But there is no directive to give Costa a decent home.

"When I had him, I had no papers and because I was desperate for a doctor. I registered him under a false name. You would have done the same if you were me," says Kostaula Anastasopoulou, Costa's mother.


Then, she brought out X-rays which show Costa has something wrong with his hips.

Roma dancing
There are eight million Roma in Europe
But no-one has helped her follow up.

In Rhodes, 10 minutes' drive away, we found Georgo Gianopolous, mayor of the city and responsible for the gypsies on the island, and showed him the X-rays.

His doctor, Gianis Economithis, also happened to be there. But it was not a problem which specifically involved either of them.

"She can go to the children's hospital in Athens at any time," says Dr Economithis. "It's very easy."

State neglect

But it is not that simple. This community is illiterate. Where should Costa go? How should he get to the Athens hospital?

European human rights charters say that if the parents do not know and cannot help, the state should intervene. In Costa's case it has not.

It is pretty dreadful that behind the European vision, there is a reality like this, but it is even more shocking that right here, right now, nothing is being done to end it.

We found out that if Costa does not get help within weeks, he could grow up crippled.

So why in modern Europe is he being neglected?

See also:

26 Aug 00 | Europe
Action promised after Roma death
04 Aug 00 | Europe
UN fears over Roma deportations
26 Jul 00 | Europe
Through the eyes of a gypsy
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