The main phase of FRA’s Local Engagement for Roma Inclusion (LERI) project is now taking shape, after the pilot phase revealed a number of barriers to improving Roma integration. The project is taking place in 22 localities across 11 EU Member States: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the UK.
The results of the pilot phase showed that mutual mistrust, poor operational coordination mechanisms, lack of a shared understanding of needs, and absence of funding or complicated funding regulations often hinder the implementation of inclusion measures at the local level.
In Hrabušice (Slovakia), where Roma make up about 40% of the population of 2,378 inhabitants, the main challenges included disempowerment and indifference on the part of Roma. This in turn resulted from a chronic lack of employment and dependence on public works programmes. LERI will therefore focus on energising the local community, engaging its members in improvements to public space and exposing young people to new opportunities through youth exchanges and internships in NGOs.
In Mantua (Italy), where some 300 Italian Sinti live, local stakeholders said the most pressing concerns were housing segregation and problems in formalising the traditional occupation of local Sinti, the scrap metal trade. After identifying these needs, representatives of all communities involved discussed potential solutions. These included making changes to the official assessment criteria of people eligible for public housing, as well as mutually acceptable options to regulate the scrap trade in line with existing regulations.
LERI aims to identify and understand the factors both facilitating and hindering the efforts of all those involved – municipal authorities, NGOs, and Roma as well as non-Roma communities – to design, implement and monitor Roma integration activities, especially those implemented with EU funds. The project uses qualitative participatory action research, thus increasing the involvement of local communities in processes and projects, and helping to bring different groups together to address shared priorities.