Leaders say ministers’ criticism of comedians is at odds with planned laws that are harmful to Gypsy and Roma communities.

After ministers condemned the Holocaust joke by Jimmy Carr, members of the Gypsy and Roma communities have accused the government hypocrisy. They also pushed through a host of laws that are hostile to their way.

The Traveller Movement representing the GRT community said it was “surprised” at the government’s promises that the community will be better protected against hate speech. This follows the backlash to Carr’s joke in which he claimed the genocide by Sinti gypsies and Romani in the Holocaust is ignored as people don’t want “to focus on the positives”.

Greg Sproston is the policy and campaigns manager at the Traveller Movement. He said that the government was trying to pass three bills on policing and nationality, borders, and elections. All of these bills will have “disproportionately negative effects” on the GRT community. He said that the national strategy to reduce inequality within the community, which was announced more than two years ago, “still hasn’t materialized”.

He stated, “If the government is serious in protecting and supporting these communities they would repeal this discriminatory legislation” and immediately implement the strategy.

The GRT community is particularly concerned about the policing bill. It would allow police to move travellers’ camp if someone complained, regardless of whether there was a crime.

Billy Welch is the head gypsy, and spokesperson for the UK’s Roma community. He said that he is currently consulting lawyers to determine if Carr can be charged with inciting racial hate.

He claimed that the comedian’s joke was offensive partly because of the trauma left over from the Holocaust, when between 200,000 to 2 million Sinti and Romani gypsies were killed.

“Many are still alive who saw the horror of what happened and many more who lost loved ones in barbarous or sadistic murders.” He said that it was too painful to make a joke about it.

The Traveller Movement called Netflix to remove the gag from the December His Dark Material special. They have apologised. The petition has attracted thousands of signatures.

To prevent another incident, the charity offered to amend the platform’s editorial guidelines. Sproston stated that it is difficult to over-stress how much distress and hurt this causes.

Sproston stated that Carr’s joke showed that the GRT community was “seen as low hanging fruit or a legitimate victim” and that many people don’t understand that they are an ethnic minority protected by law.

He claimed that a young Irish traveller had told him “no mater how much he has achieved or where he is in his life, as soon he hears a negative comment like that, he will be back at square one because it reminds me of everything society thinks of him.”

Recent surveys conducted by University of Birmingham researchers revealed that 44% of UK citizens had negative attitudes toward GRT people. This makes them nearly twice as disliked than Muslims who received the second most prejudice.

In 2017, the Traveller Movement’s research found that 91% had been discriminated against, which it called “the last acceptable form” of racism. These attitudes can have a profound effect on areas like employment and education where GRT people are under-represented, as well as the criminal justice system where they are highly represented.

Carr has said that the joke was meant to raise awareness about the genocide of 25-50% of Europe’s Sinti gypsies and Roma populations. Some commenters suggested that it might have been ironically intended to draw attention against the GRT community.

Sproston stated that the laughter of the audience and the reactions to the joke on social media showed that anti-GRT attitudes were so deeply embedded that many people took the joke at face worth, which could lead to further disadvantage for an already disadvantaged community.

Rosa Cisneros is a GRT member who studies Romani culture at Coventry University. She said that she was shocked but not surprised by Carr’s joke.

This situation has shown that anti-Gypsyism is still prevalent today. It’s not about me being offended, censoring Jimmy Carr, or making it clear that I don’t want to cancel a show or infringe upon someone’s speech freedom and rights. It is a terrible space in which such hateful and harmful speech is tolerated and considered a joke.