Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Left Out - Violations of the Rights of Roma in Europe

Amnesty International has just come out with a 30 page report on current discrimination that many Romani people are currently facing across Europe. It details the violations in respect to the right to adequate housing, healthcare, education, work and the failure to protect the Roma against discrimination.

Here are some excerpts from the publication:

Numbering between 10 and 12 million people, the Roma are one of Europe’s largest and
most disadvantaged minorities. On almost every indicator of human development, in almost
every country, the Roma fall far below the national average. On average, they have lower
incomes, worse health, poorer housing, lower literacy rates and higher levels of
unemployment than the rest of the population. These are not, simply, the inevitable
consequences of poverty. They are the result of widespread, often systemic, human rights
violations. They are, in particular, the result of prejudice - of centuries of societal,
institutional and individual acts of discrimination, that have pushed the great majority of
Roma to the very margins of society – and which are keeping them there.
Overcoming the chronic exclusion of Europe’s Roma, requires an understanding of the
interconnectedness of all human rights. All too often, the violation of one right can expose
victims to the violation of several others. Thus, millions of Roma, living in isolated slums,
often without access to electricity or running water, are at greater risk of illness, but less able
to access the health care they need. Receiving inferior education in segregated schools, they
are, in turn, severely disadvantaged in the labour market. Unable to find jobs, millions of
Roma cannot access better housing, afford medication, or pay the costs of their children’s
schooling. Socially marginalized, the Roma are also politically excluded. And so the cycle
continues, aggravated all the while by the discrimination that is routinely denying Roma
equal opportunity, equal treatment and the full enjoyment of all their rights.
Governments can and must do something about this. By eliminating discrimination by public
authorities, by implementing effective programmes to promote the social inclusion of
marginalized Roma and combating societal discrimination, governments can break the
vicious cycle of prejudice, poverty and human violations that Roma are all too often trapped
in. The dignity of Europe’s Roma demands it.

 Discrimination within education systems continues to be a significant cause of the
educational underachievement of Roma. In many countries discrimination is not limited to
individual acts of prejudice by teachers and education professionals. It is often deeply
ingrained in education systems, reflecting, in part, broader patterns of societal
discrimination. However, it is also the result of policies and practices that have the effect of
excluding many Roma from accessing quality education.


Jakub is 16 years old and lives with his family at the Romani settlement on the outskirts of Plaveck├Ż ┼átvrtok, a
village 20km north of Bratislava. His story is the same as thousands of Romani children in Slovakia who have
been unjustly placed in inferior education. Jakub started school in the mainstream class, where he stayed until
grade four. An excellent student, Jakub even received a scholarship for his achievement. But when he reached
the fifth grade, Jakub was sent for assessment following a disagreement with his teacher. His parents were
not informed about the assessment and he was immediately transferred to the special class. His mother was
later told it was a class for “slower pupils”, but she wonders how her son can be ‘slow’ when he received good
grades before.
One of Jakub’s former teachers spoke to Amnesty International: “Some of the children, as I see it, are wrongly
placed. For example, [Jakub] had been placed in [a class for children with mild] mental disability… on the
grounds of hyperactivity... at the Malacky [assessment centre] they are classified by people who, in fact, have
never worked with them. The kid should have been in a normal class. He was a genius.”
Having now finished elementary school, Jakub clearly feels frustrated by the injustice he suffered: “What they
did to me was nasty… They made an idiot out of me. I was getting a scholarship of 100 crowns per month. I
was one of the best pupils in fourth grade. If I could turn the time back, I would do it. But it’s too late now.”

~ Robin Andreae


  1. Really interesting. When I worked in a law centre (homelessness - SHELTER) I would be sent off on all sorts of leagal training days. One on DV was hosted by a human rights lawyer that had spent the previuous 6 years fight a case for Roma gypsies. It had exhaustedvthe legal system in the Czech Republic and was awaiting a date for the case to be heard in the European Courts for Human Rights. She expected that it would take a further 13 years for the case to be heard. I can imagine how frustrating that can be for the communities experiencing discrimination and harassment.

    Pavee lackeen (2005) is a very good film based on the life of an Irish traveller family. Have you seen it?

  2. That's so true. I couldn't imagine how hard it must be.
    I haven't seen that movie. I'll have to check that it out.