Aggrieved over view of Gypsy life in Slovakia

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 November, 1997, 12:00am

I would like to respond to David Wallen's article 'Gypsy boat people set sail for better life' (South China Morning Post, October 25) about the recent wave of Gypsy asylum-seekers to arrive in Britain.

The article gives rather a distorted picture of the problem.

First, the writer creates a false impression that the problem has been related mainly to Slovak Gypsies.

Mr Wallen should have mentioned that only a minority of these involved had Slovak passports. He must have also noticed that Britain has not been the only destination of the Gypsy migration wave in recent months, and that Slovakia is not the migrants' only home country.

I must vehemently disagree with the comment that Slovakia is one of the worst eastern European countries when it comes to the treatment of Gypsies.

Gypsies that went from Slovakia to Britain to seek asylum are not 'also', but solely, economic - or perhaps social - migrants.

I am not going to claim that the situation of Gypsies in my country is without any problem and that their life is ideal, but to speak about their repression and discrimination simply doesn't correspond with reality. I can assure Mr Wallen that poverty, rampant crime and a Russian mafia do not characterise today's Slovakia and living there is not a bad dream.

Various long-term activities of the Slovak authorities could have been mentioned, such as those in the field of preserving and developing the unique Gypsy culture, education in the Gypsies' language, social benefits, and continual dialogue with Gypsy associations' representatives.

VLADIMIR V. KLIMO Ambassador of the Slovak Republic Beijing