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A LEADING Roma rights group has denounced Jeremy Hunt’s comparison of Adolf Hitler to Jeremy Corbyn as “contemptible” and suggested he review his party’s own track record on racism.
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) spoke out after the Conservative Foreign Secretary and candidate for Number 10 said: “When I went to Auschwitz I rather complacently said to myself, ‘thank goodness we don’t have to worry about that kind of thing happening in the UK’ and now I find myself faced with the leader of the Labour Party who has opened the door to anti-semitism in a way that is truly frightening.”
The shocking slur has provoked a petition demanding he apologise to Mr Corbyn which has already rocketed to over 12,000 signatures.
ERRC advocacy officer Bernard Rorke told the Morning Star: “To use the occasion of a visit to Auschwitz to have a go and accuse a lifelong and deeply committed anti-racist like Jeremy Corbyn of anti-semitism is contemptible.
“If Hunt was to learn one lesson from his visit he might have taken note that there were an estimated 500,000 Romani victims of the Holocaust — Romani children, women and men who were exterminated in the camps, or shot and butchered at various massacre sites by the nazis and their allies in occupied Europe.
“Hunt might reflect that almost 75 years later, across Europe, the Romani survivors of the fascist endeavour to wipe them off the face of the earth still have to confront multiple forms of discrimination and segregation, racist hate crime and acts of ‘collective punishment’ by neonazi paramilitaries, and acute material deprivation and poverty.
“He might look at the record of his own party in perpetuating and ramping up anti-gypsyism every time some Tory muppet proposes ‘getting tough on Gypsies and Travellers.’ He might reflect on his party’s historic role in keeping Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities excluded and impoverished, despised and humiliated.”
Parliament’s women and equalities committee slammed the Tory government in April for its treatment of GRT communities.
The committee found they had “the worst outcomes of any ethnic group” across education, health, jobs, justice and hate crime.
The committee’s chairwoman, Tory MP Maria Miller, said the Equality and Human Rights Commission should hold an inquiry to ensure that the NHS is addressing GRT health needs.
This was not the first time the government has been warned about its record on Roma rights.
When Mr Hunt was health secretary in 2015 the Equal Rights Trust wrote to him raising concerns that the Roma community faced discrimination in accessing healthcare.
His party’s support for Hungary’s far-right President Viktor Orban has also alarmed minorities.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has accused Mr Orban of downplaying Hungary’s role in the Holocaust.
The ERRC said Mr Hunt’s support for the Hungarian leader was “hardly surprising” and symbolised the Tories’ “general stance on Roma Rights.”
The group told the Star: “Whether it’s hate speech from local party members or Tory MPs, or ratcheting up hostility across the boroughs, the Conservative Party has long been the party most hostile to Roma, Gypsies and Travellers.
“Local Tory councils impose sweeping bans, hounding out and moving on Gypsy and Traveller families, in what critics describe as acts of ‘social cleansing’.”
Mr Hunt’s comments have also outraged Labour activists.
Former Labour foreign minister Chris Mullin tweeted that Mr Hunt had hit “a new low” and a petition requesting a formal apology quickly reached over 12,000 signatories.
Petition organiser Chelley Ryan told the Star: “The fact so many have signed in such a short time is a sign of how sick people are getting with these nasty, cynical attacks on the leader of the opposition and the weaponisation of anti-semitism in general.”
Jewish Labour activist David Rosenberg, whose book was recently promoted in Parliament by the shadow chancellor, also denounced the smear.
Mr Rosenberg wrote on his blog: “I happen to know that Jeremy Corbyn visited Auschwitz before he became Labour leader (and has visited Theresienstadt since becoming leader).
“He did so to bear witness, to learn, to absorb its lessons for humanity; lessons that he has used in his continuing, decades-long, campaigns against all racism and injustice.”
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