Beate Winkler called on authorities at European, national and local level to step up efforts to address the entrenched discrimination of Roma and Travellers in education, employment, access to health care and services. She encouraged governments to make use of ‘positive action' to achieve equality in practice.
"Nothing is more unfair than the equal treatment of unequals. To remove deep-rooted discrimination against Roma and Travellers, we need more than just equal treatment. Take the example of the labour market. The unemployment rate among Roma in several EU Member States is as high as 70-90%. The EU anti-discrimination law specifically allows for positive action. Employers could, for instance, run targeted recruitment campaigns or offer vocational training to Roma and Travellers. We need more such measures to enable Roma and Travellers to compete on equal terms with other job applicants," Beate Winkler commented.
She continued: "When, if not during this European Year of Equal Opportunities for All, will we make real progress in turning these principles of equality into reality? The Year must raise awareness of the ongoing discrimination against Roma and Travellers and encourage action to combat it."
Roma form one of the largest ethnic minority groups in the EU-27. They are amongst the groups most vulnerable to discrimination. According to a recent Eurobarometer survey on discrimination, 77% of Europeans believe that being a Roma tends to be a disadvantage in their country. The Fundamental Rights Agency has documented that Roma and Travellers are subjected to racially motivated violence. They face systemic discrimination in education, public health care, services and employment. Romani women and children often fall victim to multiple discrimination on the grounds of age, ethnicity and gender.
Notes to Editors:
Information about FRA:
- The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) is an independent body of the European Union. Its objective is to provide assistance and expertise on fundamental rights matters to the EU and its Member States, when they are implementing Community law. The aim is to support them to respect fully fundamental rights when they take measures or formulate courses of action. FRA was established through Council Regulation (EC) No 168/2007 of 15 February 2007. It is based in Vienna and is being built on the former European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).
- A broad majority of Europeans (77%) believe that being a Roma is a disadvantage in their society. (http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_263_en.pdf)
- Education systems across the EU are failing Roma pupils. As a result, Roma pupils tend to leave education early, which deprives them of the qualifications that would enable them to compete in the labour market. Segregation in the education of Roma and Traveller pupils still persists in many EU countries - sometimes as the unintended effect of policies and practices, and sometimes as a result of residential segregation.
- According to data available to FRA, the marginalisation of Roma on labour markets persists in nearly all Member States where they represent a significant minority. Unemployment among Roma is estimated to reach 70-90% in at least three Member States.
- In the field of housing, Roma and Travellers are among the groups facing most discrimination. Surveys show that they are the group "least wanted" as neighbours by majority populations. A common problem in some Member States is a lack of provision of accommodation sites by the authorities. This often results in people from these groups living in unapproved accommodation, which lacks basic sanitary facilities. In some countries, the extreme deprivation of Roma housing is heightened by subjection to evictions and forced relocations.
- In the field of access to health care, Roma are subjected to discriminatory treatment, ranging from segregation in maternity wards to discriminatory treatment by medical professionals.
- The designation of 8 April as International Roma Day goes back to the fourth congress of the International Romani Union in Warsaw in 1990. The International Roma Day is celebrated as tribute to the first international meeting of Roma representatives, on 8 April 1971, near London.
Further information concerning Roma and Travellers in Europe:
- Romani women and access to public health care
- Roma and Travellers in Public Education
- Annual Report 2006
European Commission reports:
- Eurobarometer Survey on Discrimination in the EU: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_263_sum_en.pdf
- European Commission Portal on Roma: http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/fundamental_rights/roma/index_en.htm
Other international organisations:
- Council of Europe Roma and Travellers Division: http://www.coe.int/T/DG3/RomaTravellers/Default_en.asp
- Contact Point on Roma and Sinti Issues (ODIHR-OSCE): http://www.osce.org/odihr/18148.html
- UNICEF: http://www.unicef.de/4298.html