Operation: Last Chance.ARTICLES
12. 04. 2016 dokmz.wordpress.com
Roma face uncertain future amid Slovakia’s nationalist surge

His mouth open wide, four-year-old Milos is intent on managing a plate of fish and potatoes using adult-sized cutlery — a meal all too rare for the many Roma children living in squalor in Slovakia. “Childhood obesity isn’t a problem here,” kindergarten director Anna Klepacova told AFP, as she watched her pupils eat what is often their only meal of the day. Little Milos is one of over a hundred Roma children attending a pre-school at the impoverished Lunik IX housing estate, an urban wasteland in Slovakia’s second city of Kosice that looks more like a slum in the developing world than a neighbourhood in the eurozone. And there appears little hope for change following the general election in March. Surrounded by heaps of trash, Lunik’s massive, grim communist-era high-rise concrete apartment blocks have had no electricity, heat, gas or running water since utilities were cut more than a decade ago due to unpaid bills. Over-crowding is chronic, with 6,000 residents squeezed into quarters meant to accommodate half that number. Chimneys puffing thick, grey smoke, stick out some of windows; stoves installed in many of the flats are loaded with wood harvested from a nearby forest. Water is gathered in jerry cans from a ground floor outdoor faucet that only runs in the morning. Nearly 20 percent of Slovakia’s estimated 400,000 Roma live in abject poverty, in more than 600 shanty towns and slums mostly in the south and east of this economically successful eurozone country of 5.4 million people. A 2012 UN Development Programme report found that around 75 percent of the country’s Roma are unemployed, a rate seven-times higher than among non-Roma. Slovakia vowed in 2012 to eliminate discrimination in education and housing, but the results of last month’s general election suggest that life for Roma people is unlikely to improve anytime soon. The community lost Peter Pollak, its first and only member of parliament, after he failed to hold on to his seat in the March 5 ballot. Dominated by the racially charged anti-Muslim and anti-refugee policies of leading left and right-wing parties amid Europe’s migrant crisis, the election also ushered a stridently anti-Roma ultra-nationalist party into parliament for the first time.