Discrimination & Hate Crime – issues uniting Jews and Gypsies, Roma and Travellers

Posted on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Reflections on the 4th session of the René Cassin – AJA Fellowship Programme, April 2018

by Talia Blank, 2018 Fellow

The topic of our fourth session was discrimination and hate crime. We learned that in 2016 – 2017, 80,000 hate crimes were recorded by the Police in England and Wales (a 30% rise from the previous year). Mia spoke of the large justice gap that exists for victims of hate crime informing us that of the estimated 110,000 hate crimes that were reported to the police in 2016, only just over 4% went on to receive a declared sentence uplift under hate crime legislation after conviction. These statistics highlight the need for revised hate crime legislation, to ensure that all victims of hate crime of all characteristics – racial, religious, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity – are protected equally under the legislation and are not denied justice.

Persecution – a common history

One of Rene Cassin’s primary campaigns is fighting for equal rights for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (GTR). As usual, we explored what was Jewish about this particular human rights issue and the answer was very clear-cut: constituting Europe’s largest ethnic minority, GTR communities share a history of persecution with Jewish people; both communities have suffered centuries of racist hostility and both were targeted by the Nazis during the Second World War. They both also regularly need to challenge discriminatory language and stereotypes.

Problems facing Gypsies, Roma & Travellers today

Our guest speaker for the evening was Gemma, Policy and Public Affairs officer at The Traveller Movement. This is a national community charity that promotes inclusion and community engagement with Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, as well as seeking to empower and support GRT communities to advocate for the full implementation of their human rights. She referred to their latest report: ‘The last acceptable form of racism’, which recounts the 2015 Equality & Human Rights Commission report on the state of equality and human rights in Britain, which found that discrimination against GRT – despite these communities being classed as ethnic groups and therefore theoretically protected against discrimination – remains a common occurrence. It reported that GRT communities faced multiple disadvantages in education, health, the workplace and the justice system, possibly due to the widespread discrimination these communities face, particularly from the public, the police and other authorities. Gemma told us of one of the most pressing ways The Traveller Movement is lobbying for change is for  NHS England to update their data monitoring systems to include Gypsy and Irish Traveller categories, as per the 2011 census, in order to more accurately provide the care and assistance they need.

Anti-semitism – the Jewish link

We finished the evening with a talk from fellowship member Anthony Silkoff who is also the Interfaith and Social Action Officer at the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He spoke about the response of the Board of Deputies to the current political situation regarding antisemitism, referring specifically to the Jewish Manifesto, a comprehensive policy document for the community covering policy areas including antisemitism, Israel, education, religious freedom issues.