Friday, April 8, 2011
FROM THE EUROPEAN ROMA RIGHTS CENTER (ERRC)
Budapest, 8 April 2011:
On the occasion of the 40th International Roma Day and the 5th European Roma Platform, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) recalls the many human rights issues that continue to affect Romani communities in Europe.
Violence against Roma: In cases brought by the ERRC in Croatia (2009), Bulgaria (2010) and Macedonia (2008), the European Court of Human Rights confirmed that the State is obliged to investigate and prosecute persons who commit violence against Roma, whether they are private actors or State officials. Despite this, most perpetrators of violence against Roma in Europe act with impunity. Since 2008, the ERRC has registered at least 48 violent attacks against Roma in Hungary, at least 19 attacks in the Czech Republic and at least 10 attacks in Slovakia resulting in a combined total of at least 11 fatalities and involving Molotov cocktails, hand grenades and guns, police violence, arson attacks, mob violence and demonstrations. In December 2010, skinheads attacked 2 young Romani men exiting public transportation with bats in Bulgaria and in March 2011 a Romani boy was attacked and insulted on the way to school by three men in Serbia. Other incidents of mob violence against Roma were recorded in Italy, Northern Ireland and Turkey in the last three years. ERRC monitoring of the State response to violence against Roma in 44 selected cases in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia found that only 20% of cases have resulted in convictions (only one final judgment), police investigations were suspended without identifying suspects in nearly 1/3 of cases and racial motivation was ruled out or not confirmed during police investigation in 50% of all cases.
Freedom of movement: In July of 2010, France announced plans to evict Travellers and Roma from "illegal settlements" and to expel Roma from other EU states. French authorities expelled roughly 10,000 Roma in 2009 and more than 8,000 as of September 2010: after that time the French Government stopped publishing relevant statistics but ERRC research in March 2011 found ongoing evictions and expulsions. From May 2008 until present, Italian authorities have instituted a State of Emergency to deal with Roma and have aggressively evicted Roma from settlements. Italy publicly supported the French expulsions and piecemeal evidence of expulsions from Italy has come to light. Denmark summarily expelled 23 Roma back to Romania in July 2010 one day after they were detained: ERRC appeals against these deportation orders are pending. Sweden expelled 50 Roma to Romania in 2010. Germany paid more than 100 Roma to return to Romania in June 2009. Finland, amid public outcries about public security, threatened expulsions in 2010. In many cases, police action has been concurrent with statements by public officials that Roma as an ethnic group are predisposed to crime and other antisocial behaviour.
Increasing activity of extremist political parties and politicians: Extremist political parties and politicians have sharpened their anti-Romani rhetoric and actions in many EU countries. In Hungary, the Magyar Garda (banned in 2009), Szebb Jövőért Polgárőr Egyesület and related organisations engaging in paramilitary activities with an explicit racist agenda continue to operate openly. In Gyöngyöspata the groups patrolled a Romani neighbourhood for 16 days in March 2011, intimidating and harassing Romani residents. Jobbik, an extremist party with an explicit anti-Romani platform, won four seats in European Parliament elections in 2009 and 47 seats (17% of the vote) in national elections in 2010. In Italy, the Government has continued to use anti-Romani rhetoric to harden public opinion against Roma and Sinti and has moved aggressively to evict Roma from their homes and herd them into controlled camps. In Slovakia in 2010, the far-right Ludova Strana Nase Slovensko has been increasingly active with rhetoric specifically referring to "Gypsy criminality." In the Czech Republic, the far right Workers Party and its successor the Workers Party of Social Justice have organised high profile rallies which have attracted neo-Nazis and sparked violent clashes. The Czech National Party ran advertisements for the European Parliament election in 2009 calling for a “final solution to the Gypsy problem”. In February 2010 the Romanian Foreign Minister made public statements suggesting that Roma are genetically predisposed to criminality and media reported that the President defended the Minister. Romanian MPs also attempted to officially change the name of Roma to “Gypsies” to avoid confusion with “Romanians”. During the media frenzy surrounding the expulsion of Roma from France, the Bulgarian Prime Minister and the Romanian President erroneously referred to the Roma as nomads.
Systemic segregation in education continues: The European Court of Human Rights has affirmed that school segregation of Romani children (in schools for children with disabilities and in separate schools or classes in mainstream schools) constitutes illegal discrimination in judgments against the Czech Republic (2007), Greece (2008) and Croatia (2010). Despite these rulings, educational segregation of Romani children is systemic in many European countries: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia are noteworthy, with credible reports of segregation in Macedonia, Northern Ireland (UK), Portugal and Spain. Romani children complete school at much lower rates than their non-Romani peers. The response of Governments has been wholly inadequate: In the Czech Republic, the Government has recognised the problem but its action plan does not address ethnic discrimination; in Bulgaria, successful integration pilots have not been incorporated into a scaled-up Government programme after more than a decade; and in 2010 in Slovakia the then Prime Minister suggested further segregation of Roma in boarding schools.
Widespread residential segregation and forced evictions: An October 2009 report of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, prepared by the ERRC, found that “segregation is still evident in many EU Member States, such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, France, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia, sometimes as a result of deliberate government policy.” In Italy, the placement of Roma and Sinti in “nomad camps” constitutes an official policy to segregate Roma and Sinti from the Italian majority. Since 2008, evictions of Roma in violation of international law have continued in Albania, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. Italy has been particularly active: in Milan alone since 2010, authorities report having conducted over 100 evictions affecting more than 3,600 people (a portion of this group are repeatedly evicted persons).
Trafficking in human beings: Low socio-economic status, low educational achievement and high levels of unemployment, compounded with high levels of discrimination and racism, place Roma at an inordinately high risk of human trafficking. A 2010 US State Department report discusses the overrepresentation of Roma as victims of trafficking and their high vulnerability to sexual exploitation, forced labour and child begging in nearly half of the European countries covered. ERRC research in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia during early 2010 indicated that Roma represent 50-80% of victims in Bulgaria, at least 40% in Hungary, 70% in Slovakia and up to 70% in parts of the Czech Republic.
Child protection: In Bulgaria, Romani children account for around 50% of the children in the State-run children’s homes and about 33% of the children in State-run homes for children with intellectual disabilities. In the Czech Republic, around 40% of the children in a sample of 17 children’s homes visited by the ERRC in 5 regions were Romani. During research in 5 counties in Hungary, Romani children were found to represent 65% of the children in State care. The General Directorate for Social Assistance and Child Protection in Romania reported that Romani children constitute up to 80% of the population in children’s homes in some regions. In Slovakia social workers and child protection officials report that Romani children compose at least 70% of the children in institutional care.
Denial of access to health care and social assistance: Discrimination remains a barrier to health care and social assistance for Roma in many European states. In 2009, the European Committee of Social Rights found Bulgaria in violation of the European Social Charter twice by failing to ensure that Roma have adequate access to the health care system and to social assistance, prompting the Government to amend the law on social assistance. In Kosovo, lead contamination of IDP camps housing Roma in Northern Mitrovicë/Mitrovica is considered one of the biggest medical crises in the region. Despite significant international and EU attention, Roma continue to live in one of the camps after more than 10 years, exposed to lead contamination which has reportedly resulted in dozens of deaths.
Coercive sterilisation of Romani women: In Hungary the ERRC has documented sporadic cases, most recently from 2008. Czech cases have also been reported as recently as 2007. In 2009 the Czech Government expressed regret to the victims of this practice and the Hungarian Government compensated one victim, but no Government has adopted a comprehensive plan to compensate all victims or adequately reformed health care law regarding informed consent. Although numerous cases have been documented in Slovakia, there has been no Government response to date.
Factsheet: Roma Rights (PDF)
Contact: Sinan Gokçen,
Media and Communications Officer,
Posted by Morgan at 12:01 PM