memorandum by Ms Memecan, rapporteur
Discrimination against RomaNote
a widespread phenomenon which does not spare any Council of Europe
member State. Often, when we think about discrimination against
Roma children, our mind goes to the issue of school segregation.
But in reality this is only one specific problem. Discrimination
against Roma children takes a great variety of forms and starts
even before they are born. It includes lack of appropriate prenatal
and infant health care, statelessness, poverty, poor housing, poor
formal education and the risk of being subjected to bullying, violence
2. Considering that around 50% of the Roma population in Europe,
which corresponds to about 5 to 6 million people, is under 18, it
is easy to understand the urgency of intensifying efforts to improve
Roma inclusion, starting with children. Discriminatory treatment
leads to the further isolation of Roma children and adults in the
making, increase stigmatisation of the Roma community and reduce
the chances of Roma becoming fully integrated into society at large.
3. The aim of this report is to cast light on the most blatant
forms of discrimination faced by Roma children and the challenges
and drivers of exclusion and discrimination which need to be addressed.
I will also present a few successful projects which highlight positive
and efficient measures to address discrimination against Roma children
in the long run.
4. This report has been prepared in close co-operation with the
UNICEF Regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth
of Independent States (CEE/CIS), which I warmly thank for its thorough
expertise and analysis.
Furthermore, for the preparation of this report, I have relied
on the information provided during two hearings: one with the participation
of Mr Rudko Kawczynski, President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum,
Ms Elena Gaia, Policy Analysis Specialist from UNICEF’s CEE/CIS
Regional Office, and Mr Dominique Steinberger, Director of ARPOMT,
a non-governmental organisation (NGO);Note
with Ms Isabela Mihalache, independent expert for Roma affairs and
consultant with the Council of Europe.Note
and drivers of exclusion and discrimination
6. Anti-Gypsyism is a specific form of racism, an ideology
founded on racial superiority, a form of dehumanisation and institutional
racism nurtured by historical discrimination, which is expressed,
among others, by violence, hate speech, exploitation, stigmatisation
and the most blatant kind of discrimination. It affects Roma children
from a very young age. Meeting their basic needs is essential to
give children a good start in life. Unfortunately, Roma children
do not have this opportunity.
2.1 Prenatal and infant
7. Lack of contact with health services can be disastrous
for the health of infants, particular in situations where proper
nutrition and the care of either mother or child cannot be assumed
The access of Roma mothers to basic health services, including
prenatal and infant health services, is far lower than among mainstream
A significant proportion of Roma mothers
do not receive appropriate prenatal care and some give birth unattended
by a health professional. Frequently, Roma mothers lack a balanced
nutritional intake during pregnancy and because many are very young,
do not have sufficient information about reproductive health and
healthy pregnancies, such as good eating habits, avoidance of stress,
as well as the need to eliminate smoking and alcohol during pregnancy.
9. In Turkey, since 2008, the “Host Mother” programme has accommodated
13 000 pregnant mothers in disadvantaged regions and at risk in
health centres for one month before they gave birth. In addition,
access to a health professional within two months of childbirth
has increased dramatically to 85% of women all around the country
through outreach services. Many Roma women benefited from the policy,
which targeted largely disadvantaged areas
Twice as many Roma children are hospitalised for pneumonia
and respiratory illnesses as children from mainstream backgrounds;
ear and skin infections are rife.Note
Although it is true that the learning
difficulties ascribed to Roma children at the age of entry into
primary school are a result of inappropriate assessment techniques,
there is also the reality that Roma children suffer from the effects
of low birth weight, poor health and nutrition, stunting, vulnerability
to respiratory and other avoidable illnesses, all of which can affect
their learning abilities.
11. In addition, there is strong family and community pressure
on young Roma women to marry young (sometimes well below the legal
age) which adds to the probability of difficult pregnancies, low
birth weight of babies and other infancy health risks.
12. Roma children from very poor families are at risk of being
taken away from their parents and placed in institutions. In a number
of member States (particularly in central and eastern Europe), Roma
children appear to be over-represented in institutional care and,
in some cases, they represent the main group in institutions. Poverty
appears to be the main reason for placement in institutional care.
Where there is a lack of family- and community-based services, social
workers often lack the capacity to support poor families and tend
to recommend institutional placements of children from very poor
families because they see no alternative.
13. After birth, Roma children are not systematically
issued birth certificates. The lack of official identity papers
renders them invisible in many municipalities, and denies them access
to a range of services vital for their development. Some children
find themselves stateless because their parents neglect to register
them or were prevented from doing so for legal and/or financial
reasons. Others have no identity documents due to forced displacement
or State succession or restoration and ensuing conflicting nationality
Nationality is a right enshrined in the United Nations Convention
on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by all Council
of Europe member States. Stateless children are an easy target for
trafficking, forced labour, sexual exploitation and illegal adoption,
as underlined by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights
in a recent publication.Note
2.3 Poverty and poor
15. Roma children live in environments that often function
at basic survival levels, with negative effects on infant health
and development prospects. Many Roma children are born into desperately
poor households where, in many cases, no adult has regular employment.
According to the 2012 United Nations Development Fund/World Bank/Fundamental
Rights Agency (hereafter UNDP/WB/FRA) regional Roma survey, between 70%
and 90% of the Roma surveyed report living in conditions of severe
material deprivation. The proportion of non-Roma in such conditions
is significantly lower, with substantive differences between countries.
16. Housing and community infrastructure are often unhealthy,
without sewage, running water or heating. In Romania, Bulgaria and
the Slovak Republic, the majority of the Roma surveyed by the UNDP/FRA/WB
live in households that do not have at least one basic amenity,
such as an indoor kitchen, an indoor toilet, an indoor shower or
bath and electricity, in contrast to the non-Roma households surveyed.
Differences in household amenities between Roma and non-Roma households
are found to be most pronounced in Italy and Greece. In Turkey,
TOKİ (the Housing Administration of Turkey) has launched an ambitious
programme of building low-cost housing facilities specifically for
Roma. So far, 10 000 units of housing have been constructed and
handed over to Roma families, significantly improving their living
An October 2009 FRA report found that “segregation is still
evident in many European Union Member States, such as Bulgaria,
the Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, France, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy,
Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic,
sometimes as a result of deliberate government policy.” According
to this same report, evictions of Roma have been carried out in
Albania, Bulgaria, France, Italy, “the former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia”, Romania, Serbia, the Slovak Republic and the United Kingdom.
Italy has been particularly active in conducting hundreds of evictions
in Milan and Rome in recent years, affecting thousands of Roma families
with children. Between April and December 2011 the European Roma
Rights Centre (ERRC) monitored 131 evictions in Italy.Note
Children often witness evictions, which they see as brutal
attacks against their parents and their community. Since April 2011,
forced evictions of Roma have continued in the Slovak Republic:
in July 2011, the homes of 80 Roma persons, including women, children
and the elderly, were demolished in a Roma settlement on the outskirts
of Kosice without an offer of alternative accommodation. From April
to October 2011, ERRC recorded 46 forced evictions in France involving
5 753 people.Note
In Lyon, where Roma face evictions
from their camps, children have been refused access to local schools
and therefore have to attend classes in a makeshift classroom in
a police station.Note
In Milan, in April 2008, 400 Roma
were rendered homeless for two weeks without any social assistance
from the municipality or other organisation. In Cluj (Romania),
in December 2010, approximately 250 Roma were evicted from their
homes in the centre of the city by the municipality and relocated
to the site of a former dump on the edge of the city.
The first step to tackle discrimination against Roma children
is improving their material living conditions and access to basic
services. To this end, Council of Europe member States should expand
access to integrated early childhood services by:
- enabling easier registration
of births and issuing of birth certificates;
- strengthening outreach services for young children and
families from isolated communities, addressing maternal health,
food security, child rearing and the family environment; health
protection, responsibility for and care of new-born infants;
- supporting the well-being of mothers and young children;
- helping poor Roma families to promote the growth and development
of their young children at home by providing a safe and stimulating
physical and psycho-social environment.
20. Preschool coverage for Roma children in the 3 to
6 age group is extremely low. According to World Bank data (2012),
while more than 75% of all children aged 3 to 6 are in preschool
in five surveyed countries, in Bulgaria only 45%, in Romania 37%,
in the Czech Republic 32%, and in the Slovak Republic 28% of Roma children
aged 3 to 6 are in preschool. In Hungary, where preschool is compulsory,
and where the government supports poor families for out-of-pocket
expenses and school lunches, and gives them subsidies for regular preschool
attendance, enrolment is considerably better: 76% of Roma children
are in preschool.
21. The above-mentioned UNDP/WB/FRA survey found that only one
in two Roma children attend preschool or kindergarten. The precise
causes of low enrolment in preschool are multiple, but among them, enrolment
criteria that effectively give priority to the children of working
parents figure prominently. Such criteria can effectively bar access
to children coming from households where no adult is in formal employment.
22. Frequently, formal kindergartens and preschools do not offer
specific support for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Programmes
for these children should not only incorporate rigorous quality standards,
but they also need to provide – to both children and families –
a comprehensive range of services to ensure development and learning.
Many Roma children live in conditions of poverty that create barriers
to accessing education. With very low incomes, many families cannot
afford the associated costs of attending school.
As a result of the high drop-out rate among Roma children,
their attendance beyond primary school is dramatically lower than
that of the majority population. In south-eastern Europe, for example,
only 18% of Roma attend secondary school, compared with 75% of the
population, and less than 1% of Roma attend university.Note
Many Roma (especially girls) do not complete primary education;
only a small group completes secondary studies and an insignificant
minority holds a university degree.Note
least 10% of Roma children aged 7 to 15 in Greece, Romania, Bulgaria,
France and Italy are identified in the UNDP/WB/FRA survey as not attending
school, meaning that they are either still in preschool, not yet
in education, skipped the year, stopped school completely or are
already working. This proportion is highest in Greece, with more
than 35% of Roma children not attending school. Roma education gaps
also have an important gender dimension.
25. Roma girls face several barriers in the access to and actual
enjoyment of fundamental rights, due to the precarious conditions
they live in, the lack of basic necessities and persistent racism
and social exclusion they face. They are victims of multiple discrimination
on grounds of their age, ethnicity and gender, within and outside
their own communities. Often, acute poverty and the daily struggle
for survival forces many of them to leave school in order to help
their families with household responsibilities.
The primary school enrolment rate for Roma girls is just 64%,
compared to 96% for girls in non-Roma communities who live in similar
Many Roma girls fail to complete
primary education and the inadmissibly enormous gap in completing
secondary school amounts to 60% in some regions of the European
Union. The practice of child marriage still occurs among some Roma
communities in Europe. This results in lack of qualifications and
skills and renders most Roma girls powerless to compete in the labour
market when they grow up. This will leave many of them dependent
on men for the household income, often leading to lack of access
to decent education, employment and health care and increased vulnerability
to domestic violence and trafficking.
Furthermore, although disaggregated statistics are only beginning
to be collected, evidence from recent UNICEF Multiple Indicator
Cluster Surveys (MICS) confirms that literacy and other indicators
tend to be poorer for Roma girls than boys. The illiteracy rate
in south-east Europe is 32% for Roma women, compared with 22% for
Roma men, and 5% and 2% respectively among women and men in the
In Albania, one quarter
of Roma women are illiterate – more than twice the rate for men.
Roma women in Albania spend an average of 5.5 years in school, as
compared with 8 years for men, and almost one third of primary-school-age
girls from those communities do not take part in education, as against
19% of boys.Note
It should be recalled that under Article 2 of the Protocol
to the European Convention on Human Rights, education is the only
internationally recognised social right explicitly included under
the protection of the Convention’s Article 14 on “prohibition of
discrimination”. Furthermore, the European Commission against Racism
and Intolerance’s (ECRI) General Policy Recommendation No. 10 on
combating racism and racial discrimination in and through school
from 2006 lists measures such as
training the entire teaching staff to work in a multicultural environment,
combating racism and racial discrimination at school and ensuring that
all these policies receive the necessary financial resources and
are regularly monitored to assess impact.
It is essential that Council of Europe member States make
school accessible also for Roma children by:
- providing at least two years of inclusive, mandatory and
affordable high quality preschool education. In these services,
provide the care and comprehensive services that extremely poor
children need, such as nutrition (a warm meal and snacks at the
centre each day), health screening (sight, hearing, medical and
dental care) and support to parents and families;
- providing anti-bias training, information and materials
to all teachers and staff. Prepare the preschools to welcome Roma
children and promote their development on an equal basis with other
children – this includes the elimination of all financial, logistical
and infrastructure barriers;
- adapting curricula to embrace inclusion as a core goal
of education, free of gender stereotypes and including the teaching
of Roma culture and history;
- ensuring that Roma children are taught the core curriculum
on an equal basis with other children and not marginalised by a
- introducing appropriately trained and paid Roma assistants
and mediators in classrooms;
- investing in promoting parental literacy to strengthen
support for children’s education and in measures to encourage greater
numbers of Roma to become teachers;
- establishing basic health and safety standards for children
to ensure that both girls and boys have equal access to facilities
and can participate fully in school life without fear of violence,
taking into account location of schools, safe travel to and from
school, appropriate facilities for girls, safe spaces for play and physical
standards of school buildings.
2.5 Segregation in
30. A tradition of high-level testing has become established
in central and south-eastern European countries to assess whether
children can follow a mainstream primary school curriculum. The
result has sometimes been the segregation of Roma children into
“special” classes and schools, despite the clear stance of the European Court
of Human Rights (“the Court”) against such practices.
31. Assessment methods do not take into account the situation
of Roma children, such as poor health and home use of a Roma language
with little knowledge of the national language. As a result, a disproportionate number
of Roma children are assigned to special education institutions,
special schools or special classes, thus effectively excluding them
from the mainstream education system. In some countries, between
50% and 80% of Roma children enrolled in school are systematically
routed into all-Roma schools (“black” schools) or into “special
schools” or “special classes” which have been established for children
with learning difficulties.
In several cases, concerning Croatia, the Czech Republic and
Greece, the Court found that Roma children were discriminated against
in their right to education.Note
In particular, the authorities
had placed the children in special schools or classes without any
objective or reasonable justification, or placed them in discriminatory
conditions because the tests used were not sufficiently objective
and did not take into account the specific background of Roma children
and their needs.
33. Croatia has recently forwarded an action plan to the Committee
of Ministers concerning the measures envisaged or taken in response
to the Court’s judgment. The supervision of this case is still being
carried out by the Committee of Ministers under the standard procedure,
with a view to assessing the impact of the measures that are being
taken by the Croatian authorities, including the concrete results
obtained in abolishing “Roma-only” classes at a later stage.
34. In the Czech Republic, legislation has been modified and now
provides that children with special educational needs, including
socially disadvantaged children, are to be educated in ordinary
primary schools. School programmes have been reformed and a specific
programme aimed at improving integration of Roma through education
has been set up. However, according to the statistics presented
in the consolidated action plan, the overall percentage of Roma
pupils educated in programmes for pupils with a “slight mental disability” remains
disproportionately high even if a slight decrease in this percentage
is recorded. Therefore, concrete results are still needed in the
implementation of the action plan and the concrete situation on
The most recent decision of the Court, on 29 January 2013,
in the case of Horváth and Kiss v. Hungary,
be considered a landmark case on discrimination against Roma children.
Mr Horváth and Mr Kiss were both diagnosed with a “mild mental disability”
by assessment tests and placed in a school with mentally disabled
children. They claimed “that their education in a remedial school
had amounted to direct and/or indirect discrimination in the enjoyment
of their right to education, on the basis of their Roma origin,
in that their schooling assessments had been paper-based and culturally
biased, their parents could not exercise their participatory rights,
they had been placed in schools designed for the mentally disabled
whose curriculum had been limited, and they had been stigmatized
in consequence”. The Court decided in favour of Mr Horváth and Mr
Kiss and agreed with them that the procedure of diagnosing children
as mentally disabled is discriminating Roma children.Note
36. Special classes are in fact often presented as a bridge to
mainstream education, but in almost all cases are much poorer in
infrastructure, pedagogical materials, qualified teachers, etc.
Although segregation is almost always synonymous with poor quality
education, some Roma parents opt for special schools as, being better
financed, they are able to offer their children food, clothes and
books – critical incentives for parents who are very poor, but have
perverse consequences in the longer term for Roma children and society
at large. In addition, the predominantly Roma environment in these
schools offers their children some security against bullying or
rejection by classmates. Unfortunately, the level of curriculum
and learning is low in these schools and classes and certificates
from such schools are often worthless for employment purposes.
37. Teaching methods which are undifferentiated and ill adapted
to the needs of children are common across the region. Such teaching
glosses over variations in abilities and skills that stem from differing
cultural backgrounds, making it impossible to accommodate the needs
and socialisation of most Roma children. Most national curricula
remain monocultural and non-inclusive, with limited mention of Roma
history and culture. Many Roma children face huge challenges in
school because the language of instruction is not in their first language.
38. Ultimately, once enrolled in primary and secondary education,
Roma children may often be subject to discrimination, bullying and
prejudices leading to low expectations: European surveys show that
many Europeans, including teachers, have very negative opinions
of Roma, which are often based on stereotypes, prejudice and lack
of understanding of Roma history and their present living conditions.
Sadly, these attitudes can be reflected in public education. Even
when Roma children are included in mainstream education, teachers will
have lower expectations for them. Because of this, and by reason
of extremely poor quality of segregated Roma-only schools or classes,
many Roma children reaching 4th or even 8th grade (9-13 years old)
are functionally illiterate. In addition, according to research
conducted by Save the Children, they are often subject to violence
in school, both physical and verbal, from their non-Roma peers.
39. Even when Roma children gain access to mainstream primary
schools, drop-out rates are far higher than for any other European
minority group. According to the latest data published by FRA, participation
in education drops considerably after compulsory school: only 15%
of young Roma adults surveyed had completed upper-secondary general
or vocational education.
Council of Europe member States should end school segregation
and promote inclusion by:
where appropriate, the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights
relating to discrimination in the enjoyment of the applicants' right
to education due to their assignment to special schools;
- setting up comprehensive policies to implement a long-term
commitment to inclusive education that include: national and local
action plans to promote inclusion, supported by financial, legal
and administrative measures and requiring local municipalities to
produce desegregation plans;
- introducing complaints mechanisms for Roma families to
challenge breaches of their right to inclusion.
They should also step up efforts to remove socio-economic
barriers to education through:
programmes and additional academic support for Roma children to
facilitate readiness for school, to facilitate the transition from
one educational level to the next and to re-engage those who have dropped
out of school;
- financial incentives to overcome the poverty that impedes
access to school.
2.6 Violence against
42. The persistent prejudice against Roma leads to discrimination
against them in many areas of social and economic life, and this
significantly fuels the process of social exclusion affecting Roma.
Anti-Gypsyism is a specific form of racism, which is expressed,
among others, by violence, hate speech, exploitation, stigmatisation
and the most blatant kinds of discrimination mentioned above.
43. Violence against Roma children is manifested in a continuum
of multiple, interrelated and sometimes recurring forms. It can
involve physical, sexual, psychological/emotional and economic abuse
and exploitation, be experienced in a range of settings across both
private and public spheres, and can sometimes transcend national
boundaries. These forms of violence include (but are not limited
to) domestic violence, trafficking and sexual exploitation, child
marriage, child labour and harmful practices that constitute or
contribute to violence against children.
44. Discrimination against Roma is chiefly founded on their ethnic
origin and lifestyle. The threat of racist violence is real and
growing, and the incidence of reported violence in some Council
of Europe member States is on the rise. Since 2008, at least 48
violent attacks against Roma were registered in Hungary, at least
40 attacks in the Czech Republic and at least 13 attacks in the
Slovak Republic resulting in a combined total of at least 11 fatalities.
The attacks involved Molotov cocktails, hand grenades and guns,
police violence, arson attacks, mob violence and demonstrations.
45. On 23 February 2009, the house of a Roma family in Tatarszentgyörgy
in Hungary was set on fire by Molotov cocktails. Then the perpetrator(s)
shot and killed two family members, a father (aged 27) and son (aged
5), as they fled their burning home. Two other children were wounded.
The on-duty police officer and a forensic expert at the crime scene
both failed to recognise the victims’ gunshot wounds.
46. Attacks in Europe continued throughout 2011 and 2012. In March
2011, a Roma boy was attacked and insulted on the way to school
by three men in Serbia, which also witnessed several cases of police
violence against Roma. In “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”,
in October 2011, a 17-year-old Roma boy was attacked and stabbed
at school by a non-Roma boy because of his Roma ethnicity. Starting
in early August 2011, a wave of anti-Roma demonstrations took place
in cities across the Czech Republic and Roma settlements were targeted
by mobs. In Bulgaria, the death of a young man, who was hit by a
vehicle on the night of 23 September 2011, triggered violent anti-Roma
protests across the country. For fear of the growing number of attacks
and lack of organised patrols, many Roma parents from Bulgarian
villages (Burgas, Montana, Sliven, Plovdiv) stopped sending their
children to school. Still in Bulgaria, a Roma child from Peshtera missed
a surgical operation in Pazardjik because his parents were afraid
to travel to the hospital. In Russia, several cases of police violence
against Roma have been reported. In January 2012, police carried
out an organised raid on one of the Roma settlements in Uzgorod,
Ukraine. Roma individuals, including women and children, were beaten,
verbally abused and had tear gas used on them.
Council of Europe member States should take prompt and resolute
action to condemn anti-Gypsyism.Note
While fighting stereotyping, they
should promote the respect for Roma culture and language by:
- recognising the right of Roma
children to retain their own language and provide them with an optimal linguistic
- supporting their learning through provision of preschool
learning for Roma children in their mother tongue.
48. Council of Europe member States should also protect children’s
right to respect for their personal and physical integrity, backed
up by a strong message that all forms of violence against children
are unacceptable, that schools should be rights-based and promote
and practise human rights principles. Member States should devise
and implement policies with clear enforcement mechanisms, while
recognising the particular vulnerability of Roma children to violence
as well as its gender dimension.
3 Successful measures
49. It is easy to understand that young children arriving
at school cold, hungry and in ill health will be unable to participate
to the best of their ability. Poor levels of participation in the
early years of schooling are associated with higher drop-out rates
50. At the same time, in order to enjoy basic rights and equal
opportunities, Roma children should be supported with additional
“extras”: for instance, in Sweden, where Romani is recognised as
a national minority language and Roma children are entitled to receive
an education in their own language, they are also entitled to receive
extra support to be able to fully participate in education in the
majority language. Local governments where such children live are
mandated to ensure the application of this principle in practice
and schools which enrol such students should receive additional
funding for this purpose – these may be part of a broader package
to service students with special learning needs, whatever they may
51. Achieving equity in service provision, beyond a pilot area
or the good will of local service providers, may require this type
of positive measure to be established by law and accompanied by
adequate financial resources. While targeted initiatives may be
necessary to create equal opportunities for Roma people, it remains
crucial not to develop parallel systems that may be of short-term
benefit but cement marginalisation in the long run. Any targeted
approach therefore needs to be based on a careful analysis and evaluated.
52. The approach should be well co-ordinated; integrated strategies
should mainstream Roma and other children from marginalised groups
into general poverty reduction and social inclusion strategies while
also taking into account their specificities.
53. Mediation is one of the measures used across Europe to tackle
the inequalities Roma face in terms of access to employment, health-care
services and quality education. It consists of employing people
with a Roma background – either from local Roma communities or with
a good knowledge of Roma issues – to act as mediators between the
Roma and the public institutions.
54. Furthermore, I believe that the creation of focus groups involving
many actors, including parents, extended family members, associations,
teachers, religious communities, NGOs or local politicians are to
be considered as a relevant tool to contribute to integrated strategies.
55. Among the important amount of local and national initiatives
taken in all European countries, I have chosen four projects in
which one can see positive patterns to be followed, each of them
corresponding to a problematic area mentioned in this report: health,
education and housing. I have also decided to present one of the
Council of Europe’s programmes, ROMED.
3.1 Council of Europe
56. In 2010, the Council of Europe launched the European
Training Programme for Roma Mediators – ROMED – in order to consolidate
and improve the quality and effectiveness of the work of school/health/employment
mediators and existing training programmes, with a view to providing
better communication and co-operation between Roma and public institutions
(schools, health-care providers, employment offices).
57. The Council of Europe ensures the overall co-ordination of
the programme. A training curriculum has been drawn up and a group
of trainers has been selected and trained following consultation
with experts in the field. The programme is based on the assumption
that it can only be successful if a variety of stakeholders contribute.
National and local authorities identify the mediators who will be
trained and are involved at all stages from selection of mediators,
evaluation and possible policy responses. Roma organisations provide
support for the implementation of the programme at local level,
feedback and suggestions and contribute to the evaluation process
and to the identification of suggestions for policy adjustments.
Relevant institutions (health, school, employment) at local level
support mediators in carrying out practical activities based on
the approach promoted by the Council of Europe and provide feedback
58. This programme relies on mediators with a Roma background
who can speak the language of the Roma community they are working
with. Their tasks and responsibilities include facilitating communication
between Roma and a public institution. A first group of trainers,
selected on the basis of an open call for applications, was trained
in Strasbourg from 26 to 29 January 2011. A Focal Point has been
identified in each country, wherever possible a Roma organisation
with experience of working with mediators.
59. For the success of this programme, it is of utmost importance
that mediators be given the necessary financial support to carry
out their job and that their status should be clearly defined so
government authorities integrate them without any problem.
3.2 Primary Health
Care for Travellers Project (PHCTP) (Ireland)Note
60. Pavee Point Travellers’ Centre has set up a primary
health-care initiative aimed at improving the health status of Travellers
living in the Finglas and Blanchardstown areas of Dublin. The objectives
are to establish a model of Traveller participation in the promotion
of health and to develop the skills of Traveller women in providing
community-based health services. The project also makes it possible
to liaise and assist in creating dialogue between Travellers and
health-service providers and to highlight gaps in the access to
the health service by Travellers and work towards reducing inequalities
that exist in established services.
61. Travellers work as community health workers in Primary Health
Care for Traveller projects, allowing primary health care to be
developed based on the Traveller community’s own values and perceptions
to have long-term effects. Travellers and Traveller organisations
work in partnership with Health Service Executive personnel through
each Traveller Health Unit in the development of Traveller health
services and the allocation of resources; a training course concentrates
on skills development, capacity building and the empowerment of Travellers.
PHCTP workers are employed on a permanent basis (subject to funding);
to secure the employment of Travellers in mainstream health services,
working with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) to increase
the number of Travellers students studying in the field and developing
a Toolkit and Guidelines for the Employment of Travellers in the
Health Service Executive.
62. As a result of this project, accredited training has been
provided for 16 Traveller women as community health workers (CHWs),
a baseline survey has been carried out by CHWs to identify and articulate
Travellers’ health needs, and the PHCTP has also demonstrated a
model of employment for Travellers in health-care provision.
63. Trained CHWs (usually women) gain confidence and skills to
work in the community and to conduct baseline surveys. This was
the first time that Travellers had been involved in such a process,
as in the past, Traveller needs were largely assumed. Under the
PHCTP process, Travellers can actively prioritise their needs and
suggest changes to the health services which would facilitate greater
access and utilisation. Results are also fed back to the health
service providers. In 1998, the PHCTP was awarded the World Health Organization’s
50th anniversary commemorative certificate for a national community-based
health project that promotes health for all values of equity, solidarity,
participation, intersectoral approaches and partnership.
3.3 Housing project
Maro Temm (Germany)Note
64. The Association of German Sinti and Roma of Schleswig-Holstein
(Germany) has set up a housing project to establish new houses for
a group of 13 Sinti families who have been living in barracks. The
initiative is to be seen in the context of a school mediator project
in Kiel which addressed the difficulties of Sinti children in school
and the civil rights organisation there. The aim of the project
is to improve the housing conditions for a group of Sinti in Kiel
and ensure that the group is able to maintain its traditional values.
65. The established housing co-operative Maro Temm is the first
housing co-operative of Sinti and Roma in Germany; it can present
an option for other localities as repayment of the credit is covered
by the monthly rent and ensures that the houses will become the
property of the Maro Temm co-operative, namely the families, which
also improves the status of the families. The follow-up project
will ensure the further development of the neighbourhood and its
integration in the wider suburb.
66. The strength of the project is again the full participation
of the target group, including in the construction process to reduce
costs and to ensure ownership of the project. It is not an isolated
intervention, but is accompanied by follow-up work and the ongoing
school mediator programme, which ensures the schooling of all children
in the neighbourhood. Among other activities, the association started
music lessons (guitars and bass) on a daily basis, teaching traditional
3.4 The Roma “opening”
67. In 2009, the Turkish Government initiated a democratic
“opening” process towards Turkey’s Roma population. Under the leadership
of State Minister Faruk Celik, the government held a workshop in December 2009,
bringing together representatives of the Roma community with public
officials to discuss issues of employment, housing and education.
68. The workshop was followed by the big “Roma gathering” in March
2010, which was attended by 10 000 Roma citizens from all over Turkey.
Prime Minister Erdoğan addressed the crowd, stressing that Roma belonged
to Turkey as equal citizens and promising that the government would
do all it could to address the community’s problems.
69. In February 2011, the Ministry of Education held a workshop
entitled “Enhancing Educational Opportunities for Roma Children”.
The workshop brought together ministry officials, education specialists
and NGOs and aimed to determine roles and responsibilities for schools,
families, public institutions and NGOs to overcome challenges related
to access and attendance to primary education caused by Roma living conditions.
70. UNICEF was one of the parties at the conference, which was
divided into four thematic areas on access to quality education,
teaching and learning processes, the importance of family in education
and external factors affecting education. Collecting proposals and
recommendations from all working groups, the ministry came up with
a unique and detailed action plan to detect and monitor irregular
school attendance, prevent dropping out of school and strengthen
preschool education. The initiative was welcomed by the European Union
and was noted in Turkey’s progress report.
71. The Turkish Employment Agency, under the Ministry of Labour
and Social Policy, held a two-day workshop in September 2011 entitled
“Participation of Roma in the Labour Market”. Following the workshop, the
Agency launched a mediators programme which aims to select Roma
and non-Roma mediators who will be trained to facilitate access
of the Roma population to the job market. The Agency also runs the
“Work for Public Benefit” programme, which provides six-month temporary
jobs for unemployed people in order to facilitate their entry into
the job market, teach them skills and provide them with consistent
income. Fifty-nine governorates where large Roma populations live
have been ordered to prioritise this group when selecting beneficiaries.
The Agency expects 1 500 Roma to benefit from this program. Furthermore,
537 Roma citizens benefited from certificate programmes on vocational
education, conducted by the Turkish Employment Agency.
72. A Prime Ministerial Circular was sent to all governorates
in Turkey instructing them to issue identity cards without any fees
to all Roma citizens in their jurisdiction.
73. All discriminatory and degrading references to Roma in legislation
have been deleted, the last of them being Article 21 of the Law
regarding the Residence and Travel of Foreigners in Turkey.
74. The Housing Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) has constructed
10 000 units of housing in various parts of the country for Roma
who lived in poor conditions.
75. In addition, Roma, as vulnerable persons, are part of the
target group of the European Union Instrument for Pre-Accession
Assistance (IPA) funds in Turkey. On 15 June 2012, the Ministry
of Labour and Social Policy launched the “Improving Social Inclusion
and Access to the Labour Market for Disadvantaged Groups” which aims
to promote the inclusion of disadvantaged persons into the labour
market and eliminate discrimination towards them when seeking jobs.
Among all disadvantaged groups, the Roma will specifically be targeted under
the programme and 30% of the project budget will be used in areas
with a heavy Roma population.
76. Since its establishment in 2011, the Ministry of Family and
Social Policy has taken over the co-ordination role for all Roma
initiatives of the government, making the process more efficient.
77. The Roma “opening” process has been carried out in a participatory
manner, making sure that the Roma themselves have a say in policies
and programmes that are targeting them. In almost all meetings and
events, the government has been represented at the highest level,
indicating the good-will, sincerity and solution-oriented approach
adopted towards the issue. An indirect result of the process has
been a much-improved sense of self-respect and belonging on the
part of the Roma community, in addition to the growing number of Roma
NGOs due to the community’s heightened awareness of civic participation.
78. This report looks at the wide scope of discriminations
faced by Roma children from a very early age. The grounds for discrimination
are diverse and touch upon several aspect of their daily life, such
as prenatal and infant health care, statelessness, poverty, poor
housing, limited access to formal education, segregation in schools,
violence and trafficking.
79. The deprivation and marginalisation of Roma children summarised
in this report are symptoms of the failure of social systems for
all children. The right to the highest possible level of development
and the right to education on the basis of equal opportunities impose
obligations on States to establish the legislative and policy framework,
together with sufficient resources, to ensure access for every child.
Initiatives towards Roma communities that do not deal with the broader
underlying issues of discrimination are not likely to make a difference
in the medium or long term.
80. It appears clearly that integrated and comprehensive strategies
for early childhood development and education are key contributors
to overcoming social exclusion and discrimination. It will equip
the next generation of Roma children with skills and resources and
give them equal opportunities.
81. This global approach comprises quality health care, parenting
support, kindergarten and preschool education, and social protection
support, and insists on access to and completion of quality basic
82. Improving the situation of Roma children in Europe means developing
policies that identify and tackle all aspects of their marginalisation
through an integrated approach, together with the protection of
fundamental rights, the fight against discrimination and the promotion
of Roma culture and respect for Roma identity. While protecting
Roma children’s rights and improving their living conditions, the
ultimate aim must be to give them the opportunities and support
their ability to make decisions freely about their future.
83. Mediation is one of the measures used across Europe to tackle
the inequalities Roma face in terms of access to employment, health-care
services and quality education. It consists of employing people
with a Roma background, from local Roma communities, or with a good
knowledge of Roma issues, to act as mediators between the Roma and
the public institutions.
84. Furthermore, I believe that the creation of focus groups involving
many actors, including parents, extended family members, associations,
teachers, religious communities, NGOs or local politicians are to
be considered as a relevant tool to contribute to integrated strategies.
85. I propose a draft resolution setting out a wide range of measures
to be taken by Council of Europe member States in order to tackle
discrimination against Roma children.
86. I also believe that government-wide measures to promote good
governance form the minimum backbone on which such specific measures
should be based to achieve maximum results. Member States should
therefore encourage initiatives to improve accountability and transparency
of different levels of government and actors, to enhance access
to justice and the rule of law, to empower human rights institutions, such
as ombudspersons, to better monitor and address claims from Roma
87. In order to address the root cause of discrimination, politicians
and public opinion leaders must act responsibly. Here, the example
provided by the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,
deserves attention. At the big “Roma gathering” which was attended
by 10 000 Roma citizens from all around Turkey in March 2010, Prime
Minister Erdoğan addressed the crowd, calling out to the community
as his brothers and sisters, beloved citizens, stressing that Roma
belonged to Turkey as equal citizens and promising that the government
would do all it could to address the community’s problems.
88. European leaders can play an important role in reversing stereotyping
and discriminatory attitudes towards Roma and in promoting a culture
of diversity and respect between different groups.