The Romani Diaspora began 1000 years ago from what is now Northern India. There are at least 12 million Roma scattered throughout the world. In Europe, Roma people are the largest minority population and have been living in primarily Eastern countries since the Romani Diaspora.
Despite being Europe’s largest minority group, the Roma have been voiceless for centuries. As a people and as a culture, the Roma have been, and continue to be, misrepresented, mythologized, stereotyped, scapegoated and persecuted.
During the 1960s a number of Romani organizations were established in France and the United Kingdom, as the number or Romani organizations grew so did an interest in the creation of an international Romani organizations. After a number of failed attempts, success was made when Roma people from a number of European countries met in Orpington, near London, in April of 1971.
This congress, the first truly international meeting of Roma, brought a number of successes; the International Romani Union was founded, the Romani flag was accepted, and the song “Gelem, Gelem” composed by Jarko Jovanovic was adopted as an anthem. The delegates also unanimously declared April 8th as the International Day of Roma.
International Roma Day is a day that brings attention to the challenges that continue to face the Roma people; it is a day to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights for all people, but particularly the Roma people worldwide.
The 12 million Roma living in Europe regularly face discrimination, racism, historical mistrust and persistent prejudices. The Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts identified several potential steps to be taken to improve the living conditions of the Romani people and to promote inclusion and integration.
A group of seven United Nations human rights experts issued a statement on the occasion of International Romani Day (April 8), a day dedicated to celebrating Romani culture and raising awareness of the issues facing Romani people. “We should not accept yet another lost generation of Roma girls and boys whose only expectations are lives of poverty, discrimination and exclusion and whose futures are dictated by negative stereotypes which commonly go unchallenged”.