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Roma migrants in Europe

Committee Opinion | Doc. 12982 | 27 June 2012

Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination
Rapporteur :
Mr Ferenc KALMÁR, Hungary, EPP/CD
Reference to committee: Doc 12950, Reference 3722 of 8 October 2010. Reporting committee: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. See Doc. 12950. Opinion approved by the committee on 26 June 2012. 2012 - Third part-session

A Conclusions of the committee

1. The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination congratulates the rapporteur of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Ms Annette Groth, for her well-researched report and supports the draft recommendation.
2. History has shown us that poverty and large gaps between different social strata represent a serious threat to the stability of a social or political system. Therefore, we can say that the situation of the Roma people is an economical, social but also a political risk for Europe which has to be addressed.
3. The situation of Roma raises concerns, as their discrimination in Council of Europe member States is blatant. Roma migrants, as highlighted by Ms Groth, live in particularly difficult conditions and suffer from multiple discrimination, as Roma and as migrants. Stigmatisation in public discussion and the political discourse, as well as stereotyping in the media, fuel discrimination against Roma and make their integration even more difficult.
4. Roma women and girls face particular challenges, as they are discriminated against both within and outside their community and are victims of gender-based violence in a number of forms. These include domestic violence, forced marriages, rape and marital rape, economic violence and physical and verbal abuse.
5. Roma women and girls but also children are disproportionately affected by human trafficking, for purposes of sexual exploitation, labour exploitation and coercion into illegal activities. The social and economic vulnerability of these groups in particular and Roma communities in general increase the incidence of human trafficking.
6. Limited access to justice jeopardises the possibility for Roma people to seek redress against discrimination and human rights violations.

B Proposed amendments

Amendment A (to the draft recommendation)

In the draft recommendation, after paragraph 6.3, add the following sub-paragraph:

“urge member States who have not yet done so to sign and ratify Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 177)”.

Amendment B (to the draft recommendation)

In the draft recommendation, after paragraph 6.3, add the following sub-paragraph:

“ask member States to ensure that fair, impartial and non-discriminatory policing practices are enforced for dealing with all migrants, including Roma”.

Amendment C (to the draft recommendation)

In the draft recommendation, after paragraph 6.3, add the following sub-paragraph:

“recommend that member States carry out an in-depth analysis in order to find the general and country-specific causes of movement and migration and to work out and implement measures which could tackle the causes. Furthermore, to recommend that member States and the European Union raise funds which could be used for the above cause.”

C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Kalmár, rapporteur for opinion

1 General comments

1. I wish to congratulate Ms Groth on her excellent report, which dismantles the widespread stereotypes and misconceptions on Roma migrants in Europe, while giving factual evidence on their actual situation.
2. The report is in line with the principles consistently promoted by the Parliamentary Assembly and enshrined in its texts. The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination can only support the efforts to identify discriminatory policies affecting migrants or any other group and ask the Council of Europe member States to redress them.
3. The measures indicated in the draft recommendation are all the more needed and timely, as in the current situation of economic crisis and financial emergency, the rights of minorities and disadvantaged groups are going down the list of priorities in the political agenda of Council of Europe member States. In addition, Roma people and migrants are very often scapegoats in the current difficult situation.
4. The report is very comprehensive and I can subscribe to it entirely. In the present opinion I will limit myself to underlining some aspects of particular interest for the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

2 The situation of Roma women and girls

5. In Resolution 1740 (2010) on the situation of Roma in Europe and relevant activities of the Council of Europe, the Assembly noted that the Roma were victims of outrages reflecting an increasing trend towards anti-Gypsyism of the worst kind. Therefore, it urged member States to protect Roma from discrimination including, where not in place already, the adoption, implementation and regular monitoring of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation as well as measures to increase awareness among Roma of such legislation and their access to legal remedies when their rights have been violated;
6. The relevant opinion of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men underlined that Roma women and girls faced triple discrimination: as Roma by the wider community, and as women and girls by both the wider and their own community. This applies also to migrant Roma women, for whom their migrant origin represents an additional ground for discrimination.
7. Violations of the rights of Roma women and girls include widespread gender-based violence, both within and outside their community. Within the community, this is often represented by domestic violence, taking the form of early and forced marriages, rape and marital rape, physical, economic and verbal abuse. Women victims of domestic violence find it hard to report it and seek protection because of fear of stigmatisation, economic dependency and lack of other places to go. Difficult access to justice also has a role in this, as in many other matters.
8. Roma girls face barriers in accessing education, such as high rates of poverty, the burden of household and care tasks from a very early age, as well as early marriages. Higher illiteracy rates among Roma women compared to Roma men and to non-Roma people are a sign and a consequence of this.
9. Roma women and girls have limited opportunities to health care. Exclusion from the health care system has a disproportionate impact on Roma women’s health, in particular in the areas of reproductive and maternal health, as well as emergency care. Patriarchal education results in a particular reluctance to see the gynaecologist.
10. Coercive sterilisations are a severe form of violence that Roma women have suffered in a number of Council of Europe member States. Cases of sterilisation without prior full and informed consent have been reported as recently as 2007 and 2008. Under-reporting has probably been endemic, because many women found out too late that they had been sterilised, or felt ashamed. Only recently have national authorities, in some cases, admitted to their responsibilities and accepted to compensate the victims of the damages suffered.
11. Resolution 1740 (2010) recommended specific measures related to Roma women and girls, including:
  • promoting a positive image of diversity and addressing stereotypes, including those linked to gender, both within and outside the Roma communities;
  • ensuring that Roma girls are given equal opportunities in education, in particular secondary education, which too many Roma girls are obliged to drop out of because of parental and/or community pressure linked to early marriage, teenage pregnancies, and household and family responsibilities;
  • undertaking, in conjunction with civil society organisations, gender-sensitive studies on the situation of children from minority groups in the school system.

3 Trafficking in human beings

12. Large numbers of Roma women are victims of trafficking, which constitutes both a serious crime and a violation of human rights. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), a non-governmental organisation enjoying consultative status with the Council of Europe, described the incidence of trafficking of Roma women in the Czech Republic in a shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.Note
13. This report highlighted that trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation occurred internally and externally, especially near the German border. Roma from the Slovak Republic, Romania and Bulgaria were trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation into the Czech Republic, as a target or as a transit country. Roma women from settlements in the eastern part of the Slovak Republic were trafficked further to other western European countries, such as Germany and Switzerland.
14. The same report provided an explanation of the reasons for this plague: “Social exclusion is a key factor contributing to the increased vulnerability of Romani women and girls to trafficking in human beings. In 2006, a minimum of 60 000 Roma were estimated to be socially excluded, likely a result of the discrimination Roma face in every aspect of life, most notably in education”.
15. The 2011 ERRC report Breaking the silence: trafficking in Romani communitiesNote indicated that Roma women and children were particularly vulnerable to trafficking. While women are often trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation, a significant number of children are victims of trafficking for various purposes including labour exploitation, domestic servitude, organ trafficking, illegal adoption and forced begging.

4 Access to justice

16. The term “access to justice” in a legal sense refers to the right to bring a case before a court. However, true access to justice depends on a number of elements, including access to a lawyer and the ability to cover the relevant cost, or having it paid by the State if necessary. Access to justice also means that laws are available and easy to understand, that they provide clear standards and guidelines and redress for every wrong. Finally, it requires a well-administered judicial system that processes and resolves all complaints.
17. For Roma people, access to justice is difficult due to several factors, including:
  • high rates of illiteracy, widespread in the Roma communities and particularly among women, leading to insufficient awareness of one’s rights;
  • the lack of basic documents, such as birth certificates, personal identity documents, as well as documents related to health insurance and social welfare, also represents a serious obstacle to the exercise of basic rights;Note
  • law-enforcement officials being reluctant or biased in dealing with cases brought by Roma people.Note

5 Explanation of amendments

5.1 Amendment A

Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 177, ETS No. 5) expands the principle of non-discrimination by applying it to the exercise of any legal right and to the actions of public authorities. This should guarantee that even the fields of activities of the public authorities which are relevant to migration (for instance the issuing of visas) are subjected to this principle.

5.2 Amendment B

Policing is crucial for ensuring safety and stability for all segments of societies. Like any other activity of the public authority, it should be impartial and non-discriminatory. This should apply to activities related to migration and is particularly relevant to Roma migrants, which very often suffer from discriminatory practices.

5.3 Amendment C

We all know the major problems of the Roma society: lack of education, inadequate lodging, unemployment and criminality. Lack of education is the largest obstacle in having access to employment. Lodging and employment are very urgent problems to be solved. Without work and without any legal income, many Roma families live on family benefits from the government. Some even have to resort to criminal activities to try to make a living.

The current economic crisis is aggravating the situation. This is one of the main reasons for migration. This is true not only for the Roma population but also for other ethnic groups. This problem could be managed by creating jobs in the affected countries. This means investments and a regulation that supports investments in the countries of origin. As a result, the number of migrants could be significantly reduced.