On April 8th 2024 we joined the ROMADAY Parade in Berlin organized by the Roma* and Sinti* community. The demonstration started in front of the memorial for the murdered Sinti* and Roma* from Europe and continued all the way to Rosa-Luxemburg Platz. Thank you Estera for inviting us to speak. Read the full speech held by Ann from IW*S:

Thank you to Estera from RomaTrial for inviting us to speak at the Roma Day Parade today. This is a chance for us to come together, to demand back our basic rights, our basic humanity. We appeal to our communities and to our allies.

As one of the largest and oldest minority groups in Europe, the Sinti* and Roma* community have endured hundreds of years of persecution, discrimination and marginalization. They have been an integral part of the European history and community, living in Germany for over 600 years. Yet, their belonging and participation in this society has been continuously undermined and violated. We would not be here gathered today if racist attitudes and disenfranchisement against the Roma* and Sinti* community did not persist. The genocide against this community under the Nazi regime was denied, even though 500.000 Roma* and Sinti* were murdered. We must break the silence and make visible the atrocious crimes against humanity!  It took Germany 74 years until it recognized this violence perpetrated against the Roma* and Sinti* by the Nazis and until this was made aware in public conversations. It was a state doctrine that murdered an entire people, their culture and language.

Today, Roma* and Sinti* still do not enjoy the same participation and inclusion in many sectors of society, such as education, housing, and much more. This particular form of racism and prejudice is part of an ideology that continues to fuel violence and it kills. Structural, systemic, institutional racism is deadly– and it affects so many of us! 

This racist ideology functions also by diminishing, vilifying, homogenizing and stereotyping a group of people. We are here today to also celebrate the heterogenous traditions that make up the diverse Roma* and Sinti* community, to reclaim, and redefine our own narratives about ourselves. Although our experiences and histories are not identical, the struggles of the Roma* and Sinti* and BIPOC refugees are similar. Under a white supremacist system, we are confronted by derogatory and racist terms used to exclude our existence; racist ideology attaches negative meanings to our identity; our experiences are characterized by persecution and expulsion. 

We mourn the victims who have lost their lives to these inhumane, oppressive and racist structures. Yesterday marked the day of the murder of our dear friend Rita Awour Ojunge in 2019. On the 7th of April 2019, exactly 5 years ago, Rita disappeared from the Lager in Hohenleipsisch, where she lived for 7 years with her two children waiting for a decision on her asylum process. 

Even though friends and neighbors had filed reports to the authorities about her disappearance, the police did nothing to find answer to this femicide. The isolation of marginalized communities makes violence possible – you cannot silence us! We still demand justice for what happened to her and for the authorities to do their job! End to All Lagers! 

As International Women* Space we bring these issues to the center of society, we penetrate spaces and structures to make institutional and systemic racism visible. We refuse to be ignored! So many refugees die on their way to Europe, are found dead without proper investigation when they arrive, or commit suicide because these experiences are so painful. A society that is imperialist, patriarchal, and white supremacist will teach which lives to see value in: We raise our voice for all the BIPOC lives, refugee women and Roma and Sinti* that have been violated and forgotten! 

Now, we witness once again a time of a very visible, unapologetic and bold shift to the right that we must fight against. Once again we are watching history repeat itself: The changes in rules of law are inscribing and fortifying racism that functions through state practices. The EU is effectively abolishing the fundamental right to asylum. In Germany, accommodation centers, the Lager, will force refugees to work for a sum of money that is beyond inhumane. This forced work and enslaved labor is a colonial continuity. For 80 cents an hour, refugees will have the obligation to work – often doing the cleaning services that the state is not willing to pay for. If they refuse to work, their benefits can be cut by 180 euros per month. The degradation and dehumanization has no limits. Stand up Against the Pact on Migration and Asylum!

For the EU, refugees are not deserving of humane living conditions. This is the epitome of racialized capitalism: Even after enduring the utmost effects of state violence and while being in the traumatic process of asylum, this structure attempts to squeeze out all the profits, all the wealth, all the resources, all the labor it can. On top of this, Germany is reimplementing the “Bezahlkarten” – cards that will determine where refugees can buy what goods and services. Refugees will no longer be able to pay in cash. Bezahlkarten are disenfranchising, unconstitutional,  and racist! This card will massively restrict cardholders’ freedom of action and symbolizes absolute control and monitoring.

EU politicians have agreed on faster asylum procedures, more deportations and less money for refugees with the GEAS reform. These major changes happening on the EU level will impact us all as refugees and migrants– a reflection of the inequality that makes up our international order. The European Parliament is set to adopt the New Migration Pact in two days, which includes the reform of EURODAC. The  European database will become a violent surveillance tool as it is expanded to enforce the EU’s discriminatory and hostile asylum and migration policies, increasing deportations, detentions and a broader climate of racialized criminalization. People will be deported to countries they have never lived in. Refugees are burning the skin on their thumbs to prevent their finger prints and, thus, their data from being saved. 

Advocating for change means being faced with opposition. The people who want to maintain their privilege will go to violent extremes. We are considered to be the problem, we are detained, silenced, our land taken, our climate destroyed and our governments corrupted. We see through your liberal world order and your colonial playbook! Our chants in the streets cannot be silenced! Your promises of democracy, of human rights, your treaties and your missions for so-called “peace” are rendered meaningless: your language reflects your nationalist, white-supremacist, imperial self-interest! Tomorrow, we meet at O-Platz at 6pm against GEAS, against deportation, against Lager. 

You Can’t Evict a Movement! When we unite, we are strong!

Having a neutral stance towards things that kill us is not an option for us!

Despite all that has happened to us we remain resilient! We are here and we will stay here!