Local Engagement for Roma Inclusion (LERI) - Multi-Annual Roma Programme

LERI is a qualitative action research project under FRA’s multi-annual Roma Programme. It was developed in response to the European Commission’s Communication on an EU Framework for National Roma integration strategies up to 2020. LERI brings together local authorities and residents, in particular Roma, to investigate how they can best be involved in Roma integration actions, and identify which aspects of these actions work, which do not, and why. The aim of the project is to facilitate the engagement of all local stakeholders, including Roma, in joint efforts to enable Roma inclusion. The experience gained and the lessons learned during the process will help improve the design, implementation and monitoring of Roma integration policies and actions at the local level.

Click on a marker in the map below to access the Community Summary for each locality or see the list of localities below the map:

Localities

List of localities:

Bulgaria: Pavlikeni; Stara Zagora;
Czech Republic: Brno; Sokolov;
Finland: Helsinki; Jyväskylä;
France: Lezennes and Lille Metropolitan Area; Strasbourg;
Greece: Aghia Varvara; Megara;
HungaryBesenceMátraverebély;
Italy: Bologna; Mantova;
Romania: Aiud; Cluj-Napoca;
SlovakiaRakytník; Hrabušice;
SpainCórdoba; Madrid;
United Kingdom: Glasgow;Medway.

Bulgaria, Pavlikeni

Pavlikeni is situated in northern Bulgaria and has a population of about 10,000 inhabitants, of whom between 4% and 15% are estimated to be Roma. There are four main Roma groups in Pavlikeni: Millet, Kaldarashi, Burgudjii and Dassikane.

LERI is bringing the various Roma groups, the local authorities and other local stakeholders together to jointly agree on a common action plan, with a particular focus on the limited access to quality healthcare services as well as intra-community tensions. The LERI project is specifically working towards understanding the barriers facing Roma in accessing early childhood education and healthcare services and piloting a community fund as a tool for helping Roma join the health insurance system.

Download: Pavlikeni community summary -  English | Bulgarian (pdf)

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Bulgaria, Stara Zagora

Stara Zagora is a city in central Bulgaria in which the Roma population is estimated at up to 28,000, or nearly a quarter of the population. The majority live in segregated settlements around the city. The Roma community faces multiple forms of discrimination and social exclusion, particularly in the form of low access to and completion of education, low-quality housing and eviction, and health problems related to HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and drug use. One of the priority areas that emerged through the preliminary needs assessment is informal housing and continual demolitions and evictions, which have resulted in tensions between the municipal council, the Roma community and their non-Roma neighbours.

LERI is focusing on empowering the local community to engage in decision-making processes that affect them, as well as in the shaping of local housing policy. This is achieved by mapping the needs of the evicted families and supporting the development of the municipality’s plans for the provision of construction plots, as well as identifying financial resources to support the construction of the new housing units.

Download: Stara Zagora community summary - English | Bulgarian (pdf)

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Czech Republic, Brno

Brno is the second largest city of the Czech Republic. It has a population of 380,000, of which between 15,000 and 17,000 are of Roma origin. The Roma in Brno are considered to be the least integrated and at the same time the most socially excluded ethnic minority. As well as high levels of unemployment, the most serious problem is in the area of housing, with many Roma facing evictions and an increasing number forced to live in temporary hostels.

Brno does not have a comprehensive social housing policy at present, but the local government plans to address this problem. LERI is therefore supporting the municipality in shaping social housing policy through providing support to the Roma in addressing their housing needs and preferences. LERI is being implemented in the context of a social housing pilot programme being tested in Brno and its activities will directly support the preparation of the pilot programme.

Download: Brno community summary - English | Czech (pdf)

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Czech Republic, Sokolov

Sokolov is a small Czech city in which approximately 4% of the population is of Roma origin. Unemployment rates in Sokolov are higher than the national average, mainly due to the decline of the mining industry after 1989. Roma residents in particular are affected by unemployment, partly also because of their lack of qualifications. While the municipality has made some efforts to improve the situation of Roma in Sokolov, including the closing of a segregated school and training of crime prevention assistants from the Roma community by the local police, Roma continue to face a number of challenges.

LERI is supporting Roma to develop their own initiatives to improve their situation and standing within the larger community. LERI aims to work with parents from the Roma community, encouraging them to take a more active role in their children’s education and building an active parents’ group together with the local Roma NGO, teachers, mediators and local schools.

Download: Sokolov community summary - English | Czech (pdf)

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Finland, Helsinki

Helsinki has an overall population of some 614,000 inhabitants, of which around 2,000 are Finnish Roma. It is estimated that 300-400 Roma from Central Eastern Europe also live in Helsinki. This group in particular generally experiences exclusion and marginalisation and faces multiple challenges, predominantly in the areas of employment, housing and health.

LERI is working to increase dialogue and strengthen cooperation between all those involved in the project, including local authorities, service providers and the Roma community. Members of the Roma and non-Roma communities are taking an active role in examining the underlying problems but also the opportunities regarding the inclusion and integration of Roma from Central Eastern Europe.

Download: Helsinki community summary - English | Finnish (pdf)

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Finland, Jyväskylä

Jyväskylä is a city of some 135,000 inhabitants in central Finland, about 300 of whom are estimated to be Finnish Roma. Although the structures and measures put in place over the years have led to positive change at the local level, Roma still face problems when it comes to participating in social life and accessing services.

In order to address this issue, LERI is aiming to improve the standard of basic services available to Roma at the local level, as well as promoting equality and non-discrimination. To this end, it is supporting the inclusion of Roma issues in the work of the Central Finland Centre of Excellence on Social Welfare as a matter of priority for the project. This also helps to increase the level of expertise on Roma issues among social welfare professionals.

Download: Jyväskylä community summary - English | Finnish (pdf)

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France, Lezennes and Lille Metropolitan Area

Lezennes is a municipality in the metropolitan area of Lille in northern France. Over 3,100 Roma from Central Eastern Europe live in the region, of which 92.5% are in the Lille metropolitan area. About 100 Roma, primarily from Romania, live in camps in Lezennes. A number of housing-related issues pose the biggest challenges to Roma inclusion, as well as healthcare, education, a lack of employment perspectives and poverty. In 2011, the mayor of Lezennes established an ‘inclusion village’ project that provides 17 Roma with accommodation and integration support in areas such as French language training, labour market access and education. Most Roma still live on campsites.

LERI is working with local stakeholders to develop a communications strategy to combat stereotypes and promote Roma activities in areas such as sustainable development. LERI is also building on the experiences of the inclusion villages to support families in developing competencies necessary for social and economic integration.

Download: Lezennes and Lille Metropolitan Area community summary - English | French (pdf)

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France, Strasbourg

Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region in eastern France. Around 164 Roma nationals (Gens du voyage) live in an authorised reception area in caravans, while 450 Roma who originate mainly from Central Eastern Europe live in Strasbourg, 250 of them in ‘temporary integration spaces’ and 200 in informal slums areas. A preliminary needs assessment shows housing and broader social integration to be the main area of need among the Roma communities.

LERI aims to support the municipality in increasing the participation of Roma in activities implemented to improve the living conditions in slums and in opening further temporary accommodation. LERI is working in particular with two authorised municipal camps inhabited predominantly by Romanian Roma in order to increase their participation local council initiatives and in measures to further inclusion, and fight discrimination.

Download: Strasbourg community summary - English | French (pdf)

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Greece, Aghia Varvara

Aghia Varvara is a suburb of Athens with a population of 26,650, an estimated 10-12% of which are Roma. Aghia Varvara has a long history of positive experience with Roma inclusion, and the Roma are generally well integrated in comparison with other parts of the country. The majority of Roma are employed, and most Roma children are enrolled in education. However, living conditions of both Roma and non-Roma have been worsening in recent years, particularly following the economic crisis.

LERI identified employment, education and culture as the areas of greatest urgency for the Roma community. LERI interventions are therefore focusing on improving participation and cultural exchange in education, as well as supporting Roma entrepreneurs through targeted training and efforts to maintain labour market participation. LERI is also providing support for the establishment of a local monitoring mechanism to help the municipality oversee and evaluate Roma-related programmes.

Download: Aghia Varvara community summary - English | Greek (pdf)

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Greece, Megara

Megara is a small city of some 37,000 inhabitants to the west of Athens in which Roma make up 3.5% of the total population, the vast majority of whom live in a neighbourhood east of the city centre. Roma in this area face particular challenges in terms of lack of infrastructure, poor housing conditions, high unemployment and illiteracy, and low attendance in the educational system.

In Megara, LERI is focusing on supporting the municipality in designing, collecting and analysing socio-economic data on the local Roma population, with the participation of the Roma community. Ways of using LERI to support regional and local planning priorities are also being explored, including the possibility of providing consultation on forthcoming funding opportunities and the preparation of proposals aimed at improving the living conditions of Roma in the area.

Download: Megara community summary - English | Greek (pdf)

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Hungary, Besence

Besence is a village of 132 inhabitants in south-western Hungary. 21 inhabitants identified themselves as Roma in the 2013 census, but unofficial estimates indicate that the Roma population may be up to half of all inhabitants. The entire village and surrounding area faces a lack of employment opportunities and basic infrastructure, such as kindergarten or school.

Building on previous activities that have had a positive outcome, as well as the enthusiasm of the local mayor, LERI is bringing together all relevant local stakeholders to mobilise and motivate the local people to contribute to a local development strategy. Field visits to other municipalities with innovative approaches to community planning and Roma inclusion are helping to build the capacity of local people in mapping available resources and in designing local project plans targeting employment and health care.

Download: Besence community summary - English | Hungarian (pdf)

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Hungary, Mátraverebély

Mátraverebély is a village in north-eastern Hungary with a population of about 2,000 inhabitants, of whom 50 % are of Roma origin. Most of the Roma live in a segregated neighbourhood, separated from the village by a national highway. The region is one of the most disadvantaged regions in Hungary, and as a result most inhabitants of Mátraverebély, including Roma, face high unemployment rates, a lack of infrastructure and poor transport connections. However, the Roma face even worse housing conditions, a lack of basic facilities, and higher poverty.

LERI is focusing on mapping the local skills as a means for further local development planning, in cooperation with local Roma and relevant stakeholders. In addition, LERI aims to establish a local radio station in order to engage young people and provide a platform for discussion on different aspects of community life.

Download: Mátraverebély community summary - English | Hungarian (pdf)

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Italy, Bologna

Bologna is a city in northern Italy with a population of about 385,000 in which various Roma and Sinti groups have been living for centuries. The Municipality of Bologna has established a local support group that involves all key stakeholders, and also adopted a local action plan for Roma and Sinti integration. Housing is the main priority for Sinti communities living in segregated settlements, and even more for Romanian Roma. Other challenges facing both communities include low levels of education and social participation, scarce knowledge of (or trust in) public institutions, limited access to formal employment, and discrimination. Romanian Roma face additional problems related to severe poverty, illiteracy and the constant threat of eviction.

LERI is engaging the various Roma and Sinti groups and other stakeholders directly involved at local level to improve and strengthen their participation in local level integration activities. One specific objective is to foster Roma and Sinti participation in the local support group.

Download: Bologna community summary - English | Italian (pdf)

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Italy, Mantua

Mantua is a city in northern Italy with a population of 48,000 inhabitants, approximately 300 of whom are Italian Sinti. The main challenges to integration identified by the municipality, the Sinti community and local NGOs are in the areas of housing, employment and education. Several Sinti families own private land but cannot legally live there as they are agricultural land areas and cannot be built on. As a result, most Sinti live on a municipal campsite, and closing this camp is a priority for both the municipality and the community. Employment is also a major challenge; many of the Sinti families were involved in scrap metal trade, but difficulties in obtaining licenses has had a negative impact on these activities.

LERI has been working together with local stakeholders to address specific employment issues and together with the municipality to explore ways of increasing Sinti people’s access to social housing. Further concrete measures will be identified in cooperation with all key stakeholders.

Download: Mantua community summary - English | Italian (pdf)

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Romania, Aiud

Aiud is a town in central Romania with a population of approximately 23,000, of which 4 % are Roma. Most of the Roma in Aiud live in three segregated areas of the town, all of which are covered by the LERI project. The Roma community living in the city centre (Bethlen Gabor) facing the risk of eviction will be the main focus of the project activities. Housing is an area of priority for the Roma, as a large proportion do not formally own their homes, and only a few houses are officially registered. The other main issue of concern for the local community is a plan to construct a national highway near to two of the areas where many Roma live.

LERI aims to enhance Roma participation in local governance processes, with a focus on increasing transparency and improving institutional mechanisms in local social housing policy.

Download: Aiud community summary - English Romanian (pdf)

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Romania, Cluj-Napoca

Cluj-Napoca is the administrative centre of Cluj County in north-western Romania. Of the city’s approximately 325,000 inhabitants, about 1% are Roma. The marginalisation of impoverished Roma in Cluj-Napoca is exemplified by the segregated neighbourhood near the city's landfill, Pata Rât, as well as other more centrally located Roma families facing the risk of eviction. The emergence of segregated Roma neighbourhoods like the one in Cluj- Napoca is not unique in Romania. However, this is one of the most complex cases, bringing together the effects of environmental pollution, geographical isolation, social segregation, housing deprivation and cultural stigmatisation.

LERI is planning small-scale local initiatives in Cluj-Napoca, focusing on local housing needs such as the necessity of increasing accessibility to social housing, improving living conditions and preventing forced evictions. LERI is gaining knowledge about people's housing needs and problems as well as about possible solutions. The information and knowledge generated by the planned activities will be shared with the local action group for housing inclusion that LERI will help establish.

Download: Cluj-Napoca community summary - English | Romanian (pdf)

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Slovakia, Hrabušice

Hrabušice is a village in north-eastern Slovakia in which 40% of the 2,400 inhabitants are Roma. The Roma population is socially stratified, with some middle-class Roma active in social and political life, and the remainder living in poverty and social exclusion in a settlement on the edge of the village. There are very few tensions between Roma and non-Roma. The main challenges identified in Hrabušice are high unemployment, drop-outs from secondary education among the Roma population, and housing deprivation. Youth have limited opportunities for leisure activities and are a particularly vulnerable group.

LERI is focusing on the fields of employment, community empowerment and capacity building in order to empower local Roma to actively participate in future projects and measures taken to improve social inclusion. In particular, LERI is working to motivate Roma youth through exchanges and community building activities. LERI is also supporting the municipality in its efforts to establish a municipal social enterprise to support local development.

Download: Hrabušice community summary - English | Slovak (pdf)

Slovakia, Rakytník

Rakytnik is a village in southern Slovakia. The population of Rakytnik is 317, 48 of whom identify themselves as Slovak, 182 as Hungarian and 87 as Roma. The entire micro-region suffers from high unemployment rates, while Rakytnik has a general lack of infrastructure, including no local school and no municipal water supply, leading to difficulties in accessing drinking water. Most Roma live on the edge of the village in low-quality housing.

Opportunities for access to national financial resources or the EU’s Structural Funds is limited due to the small size of the village. LERI is therefore focusing on supporting the establishment of micro-regional cooperation with neighbouring villages, with the objective of promoting more participatory strategic planning in local development activities. LERI is also addressing the immediate needs identified in the areas of employment, improving the participation of local people, in particular youth, and pre-school education.

Download: Rakytník community summary - English | Slovak (pdf)

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Spain, Córdoba

Córdoba is the capital of the eponymous province in Andalusia, southern Spain. About half of all the Roma in Spain live in Andalusia, and of the some 329,000 inhabitants of Córdoba, approximately 2.4 % are Roma. The city has the second highest rate of unemployment in Spain at approximately 34 %, which is also reflected in the employment situation of the Roma population. In addition to high unemployment, Roma also face challenges in the area of housing, including the risk of evictions, difficulties in accessing housing programmes, and the lack of public facilities in the neighbourhoods predominantly inhabited by Roma. With respect to education, the main issues are high drop-out rates and school segregation.

LERI aims to set up a Strategic Plan for the Roma in Córdoba covering five dimensions: employment, housing, health, education and gender, as there has so far been no such plan in place. LERI is engaging all those involved in the locality in identifying the needs of the local community, formulating objectives and planning activities. Afterwards, a local actor will take the lead for each thematic area. A number of concrete measures that draw on this plan will be implemented.

Download: Córdoba community summary - English | Spanish (pdf)

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Spain, Madrid

Madrid has an overall population of approximately 6.5 million. 60,000 are estimated to be Roma, of whom approximately 1 % have arrived from abroad.

In Madrid, LERI is focusing on the issue of gender, for two reasons. On the one hand, Roma women still find themselves in a position of extreme gender inequality. On the other hand, Roma women are the driving force for change within the community. LERI is testing new ways of working on Roma issues, and seeks to change the relationship between the City administration, Roma organisations and citizens. This participatory approach to the design and implementation of a local strategy for Roma Women will help to bring about long-term and sustainable change to the enjoyment of fundamental rights for Roma women.

Download: Madrid community summary - English | Spanish (pdf)

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United Kingdom, Glasgow

NOTE: In February 2016 project implementation in Glasgow was discontinued because project activities could no longer be overseen, and due to lack of sufficient human resources. Background research, including feasibility and stakeholder analysis, as well as a participatory needs assessment were completed by the end of 2015. 

Download: Glasgow community summary - English (pdf)

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United Kingdom, Medway

Medway is located in south-eastern England and has a population of 264,000. Approximately 1,500 Gypsies and Travellers live in Medway, one of the largest populations in the UK. In addition, 4,000-5,000 Roma, primarily from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, are concentrated in areas of cheap, low-quality private sector housing. Housing and overcrowding are some of the main challenges for the Roma population in Medway, in addition to limited interaction with social services. Roma, Gypsies and Travellers all face challenges such as unemployment, illiteracy, low levels of education, and difficulties in accessing public services, and in the case of Roma also limited English language abilities.

The objective of LERI is to bring together various stakeholders and Roma communities to build capacity and increase Roma involvement in educational projects. LERI is working particularly intensively with the local authorities and the local secondary school.

Download: Medway community summary - English (pdf)

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