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Rise of anti-Roma sentiments and anti-Gypsyism + RED implementation challenges and the role of Equality Bodies

12 May 2014 Presenter: Marta Pinto, Policy Officer, European Roma Information Office

Rise of anti-Roma sentiments and anti-Gypsyism

Despite the adoption of EU anti-discrimination legislation and the EU Framework for NRIS, extremist organisations, individuals, public officials and politicians continue to openly discriminate against Roma at an alarming rate. We can observe increasing anti-Roma sentiments and anti-Gypsyism and persistent patterns of violent attacks and actions against this minority.

Roma, mainly from Eastern MS, in addition to poverty and discrimination in housing, employment, education and health, face constant intimidation and violence. Of course, this is not just an East European phenomenon as it also happens in some western MS (i.e. France and Italy).

Of particular concern is the increase of paramilitary and militia groups and extreme right-wing organisations targeting and terrorising Roma and using anti-Roma rhetoric (particularly in Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Romania). These groups have the Roma as their target group. They use fear to intimidate Roma and they’re extremely aggressive as they carry violent assaults and racially motivated violence against this group causing the death of many. Groups embracing and promoting racist anti-Roma ideologies and strategies constitute a direct violation of the fundamental rights of this minority.

In parallel to this, Europe’s far right is rising. Many politicians play the ethnic card as a strategy to gain votes by using racist and anti-Roma rhetoric and hate speech fuelling anti-Gypsyism.

As a way to survive, either to poverty, discrimination or physical threat, many Roma move to other MS. Since Roma are most vulnerable to discrimination, they will continue to be the bigger scapegoat in the new MS they move to.

This must end. Roma’s right to security and life have to be protected now. Both the EC and MS have to take a strong position against right-wing extremism and incitement to hatred.

RED implementation challenges and the role of Equality Bodies

How come we still have such scenario, so many years after the adoption of the Race Equality Directive (RED)?

Well, ERIO’s monitoring of the RED implementation shows that some countries have not fully enforced the Directive and that law enforcement authorities face many challenges. It’s important that all actors work together in order to overcome such challenges.

We believe that Equality Bodies (EBs) can play a key role in tackling anti-Roma discrimination. They should work closely with civil society.

That’s why we’ve been having annual workshops with Equality Bodies and Roma civil society to attempt to address challenges and opportunities when it comes to the RED implementation.

Key challenges faced by EBs:

a) Challenges relating to reporting experiences of discrimination
  • Underreporting of experiences of discrimination by Roma (due to lack of financial means to initiate legal proceedings, issues of shame, stigma and trust)
  • Roma’s lack of trust in authorities and Equality Bodies (due to negative experiences)
  • Lack of awareness and knowledge (of Roma about EBs, of civil society and EBs about Roma and their specific needs)
b) Challenges relating to the role and function of EBs
  • lack of knowledge about Roma and lack of authority
c) Challenges relating to discrimination of and racism towards Roma
  • MS’s failure to fight discrimination convincingly and to effectively implement legislation to address the discrimination of Roma
  • racist political discourse and media coverage
  • widespread acceptability of expressing anti-Roma sentiment (Europe wide phenomenon and extremely difficult to challenge)
  • Inadequacies in the RED: fails to address all fields of life and issues such as traditional lifestyles
d) Other challenges
  • Economic, lack of funds for EBs

Some solutions identified during consultations with:

  • Lack of trust/underreporting:
    • build trust with local communities by visiting Roma communities, mediation (after appropriate training)
    • nform Roma about anti-discrimination legislation and on how to file complaints
  • Lack of knowledge of EBs about Roma needs:
    • promote exchange and cooperation between EBs and civil society
  • Discrimination of Roma:
    • public awareness campaigns
    • develop Action Plan with measures to address discrimination and other challenges facing Roma

Conclusion

So, what can be concluded?
  1. Some small progress over the last years is visible, especially on social inclusion dimension but with no effective results for Roma. It is clear, that politicians need to take more seriously the fight against discrimination.
  2. We believe that there are some EU instruments to tackle discrimination of Roma. NRIS and RED should complement one another to prevent discrimination against the Roma in the MS.
  3. It’s important that all actors work together in order to overcome challenges and gaps relating to implementation and effective enforcement of the RED. Partners such as EBs can play a key role here.