Roma families also flee civil war in Syria

On September 7, Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia, President of the Spanish Romani Union, sent a letter to the Deputy Prime Minister of Spain, Mrs. Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, offering the services of the Legal Department of Unión Romaní, and of a select group of lawyers, Roma and non-Roma, to collaborate with the Government of the Nation in the attention that they can provide the Roma refugees in particular, and all refugees in general, that may be destined for our country, after the distribution carried out by the Commission of the European Union.

There’s a numerous amount of Roma families, both European and American, that ask us about the assistance the refugees would receive when they come to Spain. Our answer, for the moment, can not be other than to make public our offer to the Spanish authorities.

This is the text of the letter sent to the Palacio de la Moncloa:


First of all, please let us express our satisfaction with the firm decision that we saw from the president when he firmly stated in his joint press conference with the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, that, “Spain will not deny the right of asylum to anybody. We have not done it before and we are not going to do it now.” Likewise, we especially appreciate your gesture in creating an INTERMINISTRAL COMMISSION that, overseen by yourself, studies viable proposals for addressing the serious refugee problem that the European Union is facing. A study that should enable Spain to act with its own voice and with real knowledge of the situation during the celebration of the Council of Interior Ministers, to be held in Brussels on 14 September.

This correct decision from the Spanish government allows us, Madam Deputy Prime Minister, to offer you our knowledge and experience with the end that the Romani refugees from countries in conflict, that are fleeing for their lives and those of their children, find the best guarantee of the defence of their fundamental rights from the Spanish government.

Owing to the circumstances of life as well as the fact that the undersigned was an MEP during the disintegration of former Yugoslavia, we know very well the tragedy that has forced hundreds of thousands of Romanies to abandon their homes for refusing to pick up a rifle and participate in a war that was not their own. Today, after suffering harsh repression, barely 15,000 Romani refugees remain in Germany.

We are aware that there are Syrian Romanies in the refugee camps, but nobody wants to identify themselves as being Romani, even though their appearance is unmistakable. So journalists and correspondents have witnessed as they are on-site, reporting on this tragedy. In Syria there is a bloody civil war, and the Romani don’t lend their support to either side.

We know that the migrant reception centre in Melilla has had Syrian Romanies and that on occasion it has been reported in a newspaper from Nador that a large number of Syrian Romanies have arrived at the border to Melilla.

In Iraq there are thousands of Romani that live in great poverty. But most seriously, they are persecuted by religious fundamentalist militias. They want to flee the country and try to. But their extreme poverty prevents them from gathering the minimum amount that the mafias demand in order to bring them to this part of the world.

The clashes in Croatia between the “pro-Russians” and the rest of the population have put the Croatian Romanies in an impossible situation. They flee because they are attacked by both sides.

We know, Madam Deputy Prime Minister, about the government’s interest in doing things well and relying on the experience of those that know better and can offer the best advice on these matters. For this reason, we feel that it is very good that the government has put itself in contact with the president of FEMP and that he is thinking of urgently doing the same with the principal Spanish NGOs knowledgeable in these matters to prepare a joint action.


Our Offer

There we have it. From the legal department of the Romani Union, in collaboration with a select group of practicing Romani lawyers, we put ourselves at your disposal. Perhaps the added value of our participation in this humanitarian labour will be, regardless of our legal knowledge, our Romani ties and the ease with which we would be able to communicate with people who, in some cases, only speak Romani.

Reiterating our appreciation for the attitude of Spain towards generously helping the refugees that come knocking at our doors, I respectfully send my regards.


Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia