FRA: Roma and Travellers face social exclusion and discrimination in housing

Copyright: Ostalinda Maya on behalf of the European Roma Rights Centre
Copyright: Ostalinda Maya on behalf of the European Roma Rights Centre
20/10/2009
A new report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) gives evidence that Roma and Travellers are strongly disadvantaged in private and social housing throughout the European Union. This includes discrimination in access to housing, poor housing conditions, segregation, and forced evictions. The FRA report highlights shortcomings and good practices across the EU. The FRA is of the opinion that Member States should pay higher attention to the issue of residential segregation and poor housing conditions. Member States and local authorities should implement existing anti-discrimination legislation and policies for Roma inclusion, and intensify their efforts to better inform the Roma of their rights, and involve them in the planning and implementation of housing policies.

FRA Director Morten Kjaerum: "Our report on housing shows that many regional and local authorities in the EU are reluctant to adopt and implement adequate Roma housing policies. Authorities need to act urgently, as poor housing conditions and residential segregation also have a negative impact on education, employment and health for the Roma. For example, living in segregated sites makes it difficult for Roma children to have access to schools, and for Roma and Travellers to find work and to get to work."

Unacceptable housing conditions

Many Roma and Travellers in the EU have to live in informal settlements without basic infrastructure, often in hardly habitable dwellings, without prospects of legalising their homes and improving the quality of their housing. Very often Roma housing areas have poor access to public services, employment and schools, as well as an inadequate supply of water, electricity or gas.

High segregation rates

Segregation exists in many Member States, sometimes as a result of deliberate policy choices made by local authorities and/or national governments.

Forced evictions

The report highlights forced evictions from municipal accommodation, even of Roma who are regular rent payers. These evictions often happen without prior notice, and may involve police violence and destruction of personal property. There are many cases where authorities fail to provide alternative housing and/or adequate compensation for expropriation.

Discrimination

Discrimination on grounds of race or ethnic origin in access to housing is legally forbidden. However, an FRA survey shows that many Roma experience discrimination which varies considerably between Member States. In one Member State, 34% of Roma reported discrimination in access to housing.

Low number of official complaints due to lack of knowledge

70% of Roma do not know that laws exist which prohibit their discrimination in access to housing. 71% think nothing would happen if they reported it, and 41% are unsure how to report discrimination. As a result, the number of official complaints remains very low.

Based on the findings of its report, the Agency advises:

  •         Member States should resolve the issue of residential segregation, as well as the problem of informal Roma and Traveller settlements. This means adopting positive measures, in particular concerning ‘culturally adequate' and acceptable housing conditions.
  •         Member States should provide for the regular collection of usable and meaningful ethnically disaggregated data regarding the housing situation of Roma and Travellers.
  •         Member States should ensure that the specialised bodies, e.g. Equality Bodies, are properly resourced to fulfil their tasks.
  •         Governments, local authorities and Equality Bodies must intensify their efforts to raise awareness and disseminate information regarding anti-discrimination legislation and the possibilities for redress.
  •         The EU Commission should link the use of European Union Structural Funds with the implementation of equal opportunity and desegregation plans in housing.
  •         The active participation of Roma and Travellers in planning, implementation and review of housing policies is essential.

FRA Reports on Roma Housing http://fra.europa.eu

For further questions please contact Ms. Heller at the FRA media team:
E-mail: media@fra.europa.eu
Tel.: +43 158 030 - 642

Notes to editors: