Rights of the Roma in the European Union

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The European Union is committed to upholding Human Rights and sees this as a core and essential part of its role.[1] As such the EU seeks to protect and defend these rights within member states and in interactions with non-members.

The Roma are one of the largest minority group within the EU numbering over six million people. Despite their number they have faced a long history of systematic abuse and significant marginalization within Europe. Reports on the situation of the Roma within Europe have found that they remain one of the most vulnerable minorities and still fall significantly behind their European counterparts in regards to education, employment, access to health care and housing.[2]

The EU recognizes that there are issues of human rights violations relating to the treatment and integration of the Roma within the EU and have taken steps to encourage each member state to take responsibility and work towards greater Roma inclusion specifically in the areas of health, housing, education and employment and non-discrimination at a policy, police and social level.[2]

Historical Persecution[edit]

Antiziganism has resulted in a long history of persecution of the Roma people. From the time of their initial migration in the 11th or 12th century they have faced mistrust, abuse, slavery, and general discrimination.[3] This reached a peak during the Second World War where a large number of Roma faced genocide at the hands of the Nazis in the Porajmos (Roma Holocaust).

Since World War Two the continued migration of the Roma from Eastern Europe to the rest of Europe has resulted in continued discrimination and marginalization often stemming from misunderstanding, fear and systematic abuse.

Lisbon Treaty[edit]

Under the Lisbon treaty the European Union was given an extra degree of force and ability to address issues of human rights violations within its member states.

The Lisbon treaty came into force on the 1 December 2009 and with it the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights became legally binding, having the same force as primary EU law and making it the primary source of human rights law within the European Union.[4] This was a significant step for the EU’s ability to ensure human rights are maintained within member state s and allows the EU courts to strike down legislation that was not consistent with the Human Rights charter

National Roma integration strategy[edit]

The European Union have taken positive steps towards changing the position of the Roma and to eliminate discrimination against them. In 2011, under the EU framework for national integration strategies up to 2020, they called upon each EU member state to produce a concrete plan to improve the situation of the marginalized Roma specifically focusing on the areas of housing, education, healthcare and employment.[5]

Under this framework for inclusion up until 2020 the EU has established the following goals stated in their 2012 communication [6]

1. Housing: minimize the gap between the Roma access to housing and utilities and the rest of the population. And promote desegregation of the Roma

2. Education: To ensure that Roma children complete at minimum quality primary education

3. Employment: To minimize the employment difference between the Roma and the rest of the EU population

4. Healthcare: Improve access to healthcare for Roma people, closing the gap between the Roma and the rest of the population

5. Discrimination: The EU has also called upon member states to take positive steps to ensure the Roma are not subject to discrimination but are treated equally and given access to all the rights afforded them under the EU Charter of fundamental rights

Under the EU integration strategy EU member states produce yearly reports detailing the progress they have made toward meeting their responsibilities towards Roma integration. This allows the EU to provide accountability and ongoing support to member states as they jointly work towards the goal of integration.

The European Union also provides funding either directly to member states, or through the European Commission, to help implement policies of Roma Inclusion within the EU.[7]


Many Roma children within the EU are not registered at birth. This is for a variety of reasons ranging from mistrust of public institutions preventing Roma from accessing hospital birthing care, through to lack of funds needed to register, or a general unawareness of some Roma to the need to register a child

This lack of registration can oftentimes leave a child stateless. It can prevent them from gaining citizenship and in many cases denies them access to education, healthcare, and protection under state laws[8]

Right to Housing[edit]

Under Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[9] it is clear that the right to adequate housing and a safe and secure community in which they can live in peace is one afforded to all regardless or race, religion or gender. This is also supported by the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESRC)which also protects against forced evictions and the arbitrary destruction of ones place of residence[10]

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union also recognizes this right and states that an individual who lacks resources has a right to housing assistance in an effort to combat social exclusion and poverty (Paragraph 3)[11]

The European Union also recognizes that adequate housing is essential in order for other social, economic and political rights to be met, and recognized housing as one of the major issues of focus in member nations Roma inclusion programs.

Despite all this the Roma housing situation is significantly lacking when compared to the general EU population [12] and generally falls far below the acceptable minimum standard of housing.[13] Many Roma houses also lack access to water, electricity, or gas, basic elements that the majority of EU citizens enjoy[2]

Additionally Roma within the EU are facing continued and increasing forceful eviction and arbitrary destruction of their homes in violation of the ICESRC. This is often done in disregard to the ruling in FEANTSA v France, Complaint No. 39/2006 which concluded that where evictions need to take place they need to be carried out in a manner that respects the dignity of the people concerned.[14]


There are many cases in Romania of Roma people being forcibly evicted and reassigned to “ghettos” where there is substandard housing.

One of the most significant cases is that of the Pata Rât slum:[15] This case concerns events in 2010 where 76 integrated and longstanding Roma families, many of whom had been living in the community for over 20 years were forcibly evicted from their homes in the centre of Cluj-Napoca. This was done without adequate notice, reason, or opportunity to appeal eviction. 40 of these families and were relocated to inadequate housing without access to power or water next to a former chemical waste dump on the outskirts of the city, the rest were left essentially homeless.[16]

It was not until the end of 2013 that the courts ruled that the eviction was illegal and that the discriminated against Roma should be compensated and relocated to adequate housing. However, as the decision has been appealed by the state there has to date been no resolution given to the Roma families involved.


France is in the midst of significant human rights violations relating to discrimination and systematic forcible eviction of the Roma.

In 2010 the French instituted a policy of systematic forced deportation of non-French Roma. Alongside this policy the forcible eviction of the Roma (both French and non French Roma) from their homes escalated.[17] In 2013 there were more than 20,000 Roma forcibly evicted from their homes in France, and less than 40% of these were offered adequate housing alternatives.[18] In a number of cases authorities used force and tear gas in the process of the evictions, including in cases of forced evictions of elderly and children[19]

In 2010 a French memo was leaked which showed that the government was supporting the systematic discrimination of the Roma. Circular IOC/K/1017881 of 5 August 2010[20] on the eviction of illegal settlements states that:

"It is down to the préfect state representative in each department to organise (….) the systematic dismantling of the illegal camps, particularly those occupied by the Roma."


“As part of the objectives that have been set, (…) prefects must carry out, within their geographical areas of responsibility, at least one operation per week, be it an evacuation, dismantling or expulsion, with priority being given to Roma."

These forcible evictions of Roma show significant abuse of the right to housing, and the right to freedom of movement. They are evident of discrimination on an ethnic basis and violates Frances responsibilities under various UN and EU human rights treaties.

Following these mass evictions the European Union Commissioner Viviane Reding (Commission of the European Communities) spoke out against the French actions stating it was in breach of EU Law.[21] She likened it to the atrocities that befall the Roma in the World War II stating that she had thought “Europe would not have to witness it again after the Second World War,”.[21]

The legality of the 2010 forcible evictions and subsequent deportation of Roma was also bought before the European Committee of Social Rights in the case of COHRE v. France Complaint No. 63/2010[20] it was found that the evictions were discriminatory, failed to respect human dignity, and were contrary to France’s human rights obligations

These human rights violations signify a French policy of exclusion towards the Roma, and to date, the systematic eviction and deportation of the Roma within France continues despite the EU, French ombudsmen, and various NGOs calling upon the French government to stop the systematic forcible and illegal evictions of Roma people.

EU Response[edit]

Despite significant issues arising in member states such as Romania, Italy and France. The EU recognizes the complex human rights issues arising relating to the Roma and the Right to Housing. It is one of the key areas addressed under the EU integration strategy and the EU has been vocal in the need for member states to respect the Roma right to housing as a part of their integration strategies.

In 2010 the European Union also implemented a regulation which allowed funding for marginalized communities that needed housing interventions. This intervention is available for Roma integration programs. There have been a number of key and successful integration programs providing access to housing as a result of this funding.

One successful case is the example of the Maro Temm settlement in Keil Germany. An important part of integration of the Roma is to allow them to protect their identity and culture without isolating them from the general community or resources. Maro Temm is a housing community of 13 units within Keil. It is occupied by Roma and Sinti of all generations and is a community where they are able to retain and share their culture and language.[22] It is a small community in the midst of the general population (not isolated on the outskirts), allowing the Roma access to the same educational and healthcare opportunities as their Non Roma counterparts. As a settlement it provides the Roma with security, preservation of culture, as well as wider community integration and its location within the general community also allows for the minority and majority to build a relationship of trust that helps end discrimination.[23]

The EU also provides remedy under the Racial Equality Directive 2000/43/EC[24] which the EU has adopted to prevent discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or race in areas which including access to housing.

Right to Education[edit]

The right to education is enshrined in both the EU and international law. Article 2 of the EU convention on human rights recognizes the right of education for all. Similarly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 26)[25] and the ICESCR (articles 13 & 14)recognize the right to quality education without discrimination as a universal human right.[26]

Roma children are severely underrepresented in education and are often discriminated against and segregated within a countries education system. Simply by being Roma education becomes more difficult. Roma children face language barriers due to the language of instruction being in something other than their first language. They often start school later then their non Roma counterparts, and they face social stigmatization from their classmates and teachers simply by being Roma.[27]

One of the major issues that the Roma face in access to education is systematic segregation


The European Court of Human Rights has reinforced the fact that the right to education ought to be free from discrimination. Segregation is a form of discrimination that the Roma often face in accessing education

There are three types of segregation of Roma that happen in education.

Segregation of Roma into Roma majority schools[edit]

This is a form of segregation that arises almost unwittingly as a result of residential segregation and the ghettoization of Roma. The children in Roma majority schools often face violations of the right to education due resulting from Roma majority schools having substandard facilities and lacking resources that majority schools have.[27]

There are also cases where Roma children have been forced to attend Roma only schools even where this is not the closest school to them. thus limiting the level and quality of education that Romas receive. In the 2013 case of Lavida v. Greece[28] the courts found that these forced segregation were a breach of the right to be free from discrimination and the right to education. And they condemned the states refusal to take anti-segregation measures in relation to the education of Roma students.

Segregation of Roma in general schools[edit]

Even within majority schools Roma often fail access the same education as their peers as they are often segregated into remedial or “roma classes” within the school.

There have been a number of cases where this segregation of Roma students has been found to be in violation of their right to education without discrimination.

In the 2008 case of Sampanis v Greece[29] which was heard in the European Court of Human Rights. It was found that the failure to allow Roma children to enrol in school. Plus the subsequent separation of the children into a separate Roma only class in an annex of the school was a violation of article 14 of the EU convention on Human Rights.

Despite the Court ruling on this case systematic segregation of Roma children continued. Following the 2008 judgement a 12th primary school was opened to replace the annex and required that all students from a particular area move to that school (this included the students from the original Sampanis and other school). This effectively established a ghetto school of Roma-only students where the education provided was lower than that of the Greek majority 10th school within the same area. In 2012 a second case was bought the court and in Sampani and others v Greece[30] the court found that again Greece had failed to prevent discrimination in access to education for Roma children and ordered that the children who were still of school age be transferred to another integrated state school

There are a number cases such Orsus and Others v Croatia[31] The courts similarly found that the segregation of Roma students into special classes or into roma only schools was discrimination and violated the fundamental right of education without discrimination[32]

Segregation of Roma into special schools[edit]

A serious violation of the Roma right to education arises in the unlawful segregation of Roma students into “special schools”. In many countries in eastern Europe there is a significantly disproportionate number of Roma children who are classified “special needs” and put into special education schools.[27]

Language barriers, lack of Roma attendance at preschool or kindergarten and an often delayed start to school leads to Roma lagging behind their non roma counterparts. They are often subject to unfair testing which results in being put in either remedial classes within a normal school, or more often put into special education schools. Students in special school do not receive equal education and no longer have the ability to graduate and gain higher education.

A Czech case was bought before the Human rights course in 2007 which addressed the disproportionate number of Roma students in special education. D.H. and Others v. the Czech Republic (application no. 57325/00)[33] found that the placement of Roma children into “special schools” was not justified and breached article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in relation to the right to education (article 2 of protocol no. 1) It also found that the tests administered to the Roma children before placing them into special education were biased and did not take into account the special circumstances of the Roma children and were not a fair and accurate portrayal of the Roma children's abilities. A number of other cases have established the same conclusion. A Hungarian case in 2013 also found discrimination against minority children in the testing before placement into special education [34]

EU response[edit]

Despite the finding in the courts of human rights violations relating to the access of education for Roma children the EU recognizes that the systematic segregation of Roma children in education is still a significant area of concern. And that to date there has been little progress in a number of eastern European EU countries to change the situation for the Roma, as a result the EU continues to call upon the EU member states to make changes to end systematic discrimination.[35]

In other areas there have been some positive examples and changes to the situation of Roma education in the EU thanks to the funding of education programs under the integration strategies. These successes include the increase of Roma attendance in preschool education which provides a solid foundation for educational success and a unique situation in Ireland where teachers have been employed to travel with migrant gypsy communities to ensure that education is maintained within their migrant culture.[36]


  1. ^ "Human Rights". European Union. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c European Commission. "An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020" (PDF). Brussels, 5.4.2011 COM(2011) 173 final. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  3. ^ Crowe, David (2004). A History of the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russia. Palgrave Macmillan. 
  4. ^ Douglas-Scott, Sionaidh (2011). "The EU and Human Rights after the Treaty of Lisbon". Human Rights Law Review. 11 (4): 645–682. 
  5. ^ "EU Framework". Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  6. ^ "National Roma Integration Strategies: a first step in the implementation of the EU Framework" (PDF). European Commission. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  7. ^ "Roma Integration by EU Country". Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  8. ^ The Right of Roma Children to Education Position Paper. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 2011. p. 20. 
  9. ^ "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights". United Nations. 
  10. ^ "General Comments No. 7 (1997) on forced evictions". The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION" (PDF). Official Journal of the European Union. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  12. ^ "Report on Racism and Xenophobia in the Member States of the EU - (FRA 2007) Pg 88" (PDF). European Union Fundamental Rights Agency. Retrieved 4 May 2014. 
  13. ^ "Housing conditions of Roma and housing conditions of Roma and Travellers in the European Union Comparative report" (PDF). European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). October 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) v. France, Complaint No. 39/2006, decision on the merits of 5 December 2007, § 163" (PDF). European Committee of Social Rights. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  15. ^ "National court decision –Cluj Tribunal, file number -8721/117/2011". Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  16. ^ "Cluj Tribunal sanctions forced eviction of Roma families and their relocation in inadequate conditions in Pata Rat" (PDF). European network of legal experts in the non-discrimination field. 
  17. ^ "France sends Roma Gypsies back to Romania". BBC. 2010-08-20. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  18. ^ "Census: Forced evictions of migrant Roma in France" (PDF). European Roma Rights Centre. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  19. ^ Lacrymo et arrestations, une expulsion de squat qui tourne mal à Lyon-Confluence, Rue89Lyon, 2 December 2013
  20. ^ a b "Decision on the Merits 2011 Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) v. France Complaint No. 63/2010 pg. 5-6" (PDF). European Committee Of Human Rights. 
  21. ^ a b Cendrowicz, Leo (17 September 2010). "Sarkozy Lashes Out as Roma Row Escalates". Time. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  22. ^ "Das Wohnprojekt MARO TEMM - Wohnen mit Kultur". verband duetscher sinti und roma e.V. 
  23. ^ "2014 Report on the implementation of the EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies pg. 8" (PDF). European Commission - Directorate-General for Justice, European Union. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  24. ^ "Racial Equality Directive 2000/43/EC". 
  25. ^ The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "United Nations." Retrieved 5/3/14.
  26. ^ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, "Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights." Retrieved 5/2/14.
  27. ^ a b c The Right of Roma Children to Education Position Paper. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 2011
  28. ^ "Lavida and Others v. Greece (application no. 7973/10)". European Court of Human Rights. 
  29. ^ "Press Release on Chamber Judgment Sampanis and Others v. Greece". European Court of Human Rights. 
  30. ^ "Failure of the authorities to integrate Roma children into the ordinary education system amounted to discrimination against them". European Court Of Human Rights. 
  31. ^ "Oršuš and Others v. Croatia (application no. 15766/03)". European Court of Human Rights. 
  32. ^ "Factsheet: Roma and Travellers" (PDF). European Court of Human Rights. 
  34. ^ "Chamber Judgement Horvath and Kiss v Hungary 29.01.13". 
  35. ^ "Report on the implementation of the EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies" (PDF). 
  36. ^ "Roma integration: EU Framework triggers first results".