Catalan Parliament pays tribute to Roma community
On International Romani Day, chamber supports call for more political representation for ethnic group
The Roma people first arrived in Catalonia some 600 years ago, and on Monday the Parliament paid tribute to the community to coincide with International Romani Day.
Parliament speaker Roger Torrent led the tribute, saying "it is unacceptable that after 40 years of parliamentary democracy there has not been a Roma MP."
In the same vein, Fagic, the association representing Catalonia's Romani community, called for political parties to reach out to Roma people so that they could become MPs.
After thanking the Catalan chamber for its support, Romani activist and economist, Susana Martínez, called on the authorities to balance the labor market so as to recognize qualified professionals in the Roma community.
Discrimination "alive and well"
Meanwhile, social affairs minister, Chakir El Homrani, called for a "collective" response to those who reject cultural diversity with "uniformity, stigma and stereotyping."
In an event that included young Roma people who had successfully completed university degrees, El Homrani stressed the "key" importance of hard work for achieving a "dignified life."
"It is unacceptable that after 40 years of parliamentary democracy there has not been a Roma MP"
Roger Torrent · Parliament speaker
Some of the young Romani people explained their experiences of completing their university studies, something that is not as common in the Romani community as in society in general.
Luis Garcia, a graduate in biochemistry and molecular biology, said becoming qualified as a Roma person "is not easy," and pointed out that discrimination "is alive and well."
Paco Vargas, who is in his second year of a political science degree, asked that people see young Roma people like him differently, "with dreams of achieving goals."
Education a key area
Access to education remains a key issue for the Roma, with associations representing the community estimating that only 3 out of 10 Romani children finish their secondary education.
Most of Catalonia's 80,000 Romani people also tend to live in underprivileged and marginal areas where young Roma people are more likely to become involved in criminal activity.
In fact, it is estimated that despite only making up 1.4% of the population of Spain, 4 out 10 inmates in Spanish prisons are from the Roma community.