Monday, October 14, 2019

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Article Index

Poland

The constitution gives ethnic groups who have been living on the territory of present-day Poland for more than 100 years additional rights to preserve their

own language, customs, and culture. The law defines nine as so-called "national minorities" (Belarusian, Czech, Lithuanian, German, Armenian, Russian, Slovak, Ukrainian, and Jewish) and four "ethnic minorities" (Karaim, Lemka, Roma, and Tatar). The law also contains several provisions against hate crimes and incitement to violence based on ethnic origin; however, government enforcement efforts were sometimes ineffective.

Government agencies reported that their statistics did not show a rise in the total number of hate crimes. However, during the year there was a series of high-profile xenophobic incidents, including a number directed against symbolic places tied to Lithuanians and other minority groups. According to local NGOs, including Never Again, Open Republic, and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the incidents were more high profile and symbolic than in

past years, but not necessarily more numerous. The government, while generally quick to denounce them on the national and sometimes local level, was generally unable to find the perpetrators of the incidents.

NGOs, media, and academic experts believed that the incidents were likely linked to a rise in the numbers and activities of extreme nationalist groups. Extremist groups, while still small in number, maintained a public presence in high-profile marches and on the Internet. The neofascist group Red Watch updated its Web site several times with the names and contact information of persons it considered traitors to the white race, including politicians and journalists.

On August 22, an unidentified arsonist set fire to the apartment of a Pakistani-Polish couple in the Podlaskie region's capital of Bialystok. The couple escaped unharmed. Media and NGOs classified the attack as a xenophobic act, but the government believed it was committed as part of a nonxenophobic neighbors' dispute.

Ethnic Lithuanians and Germans were the targets of symbolic acts of vandalism. On August 22, unknown perpetrators covered 28 Lithuanian-language signs in the Podlaskie region with the colors of the Polish flag and painted the insignia of the nationalist organization Falanga on a Lithuanian monument in a park. A day later, a monument to a Lithuanian poet was damaged. The governor of the Podlaskie province set up a special taskforce of police, the

border guards, and the ABW to investigate the incidents. On October 14, vandals defaced a German community cultural center in Opole, one of a series of such incidents aimed against the German minority there.

There were also scattered incidents of racially motivated violence including verbal and physical abuse directed at Roma and persons of African, Asian, or Arab descent. The Ukrainian and Belarusian minorities continued to experience petty harassment and discrimination.

Societal discrimination against Roma continued. The 2002 national census recorded approximately 12,700 Roma, although the Romani community estimated the number to be much higher. There were reports that some local officials discriminated against Roma by denying them adequate social services. Romani leaders complained of widespread discrimination in employment, housing, banking, the justice system, the media, and education.

In December 2010 some restaurants and clubs in Poznan denied entry to members of the Romani community. On February 22, the Poznan prosecutor refused to initiate a criminal investigation into these complaints, but two security guards who did not admit the Roma to a restaurant were charged with a petty offense and fined 1,000 zloty ($310) each. The Roma Association appealed the case, and the prosecutor reopened it on April 14. The Roma Association reported that, despite government assistance programs, many Romani children did not attend public school. This was because of either

financial constraints or fears that teachers would encourage assimilation and discourage traditional practices. However, according to the Ministry of the Interior and Administration, 2,764 of the 3,369 Romani children between the ages of six and 16 were enrolled in school in the 2009-10 school year, the latest data available. The association stated that inadequacies in Romani children's education made it impossible for Roma to escape their poverty. In October the association reported that many Romani children were placed in schools for children with mental disabilities, even though two-thirds were intellectually able to study in regular schools. Research by the Jagiellonian University in Krakow showed that the improper placement might have resulted from improper testing by psychologists. On May 31, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration reported that in 2010, 16.8 percent of Romani children were placed in schools for children with mental disabilities.

Approximately 80 percent of Roma were unemployed nationally, but levels of unemployment in some regions reached nearly 100 percent.

The government allocated approximately 10 million zloty ($3.1 million) to the annual program for Roma, which included educational and other projects to improve health and living conditions and reduce unemployment. The program also focused on civic education and provided grants for university and high school students.

On July 29, the Sejm established August 2 as the official Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day. On the day, the Sejm joined the Romani and Sinti communities in commemorating the extermination of the Romani camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in August 1944.

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