|A girl stands behind the foundations of a 2m-high wall separating her community from a non-Roma neighbourhood in Horea Street, Baia Mare, Romania, July 201/photo credits:Mugur Vărzariu|
April 8 is International Roma Day – an occasion to celebrate Roma culture, but also to push European governments to guarantee basic rights to Roma. The estimated six million Roma living in the European Union countries are one of Europe’s largest and most marginalized minorities. Across Europe, they are blatantly discriminated against and are victims of violent attacks while European Union’s governments are turning a blind eye and the EU is not forcing them to protect Roma.
To mark International Roma Day, Amnesty International is releasing a new briefing on discriminationagainst Roma. It says that Roma living in EU countries fall far below the national average on almost all human development indicators: disproportionately at risk of poverty, eviction and violent attack. Education levels are also far below average, only one out of seven young Roma adults has completed upper-secondary education. Education is actually segregated in the Czech Republic, Greece and Slovakia, a practice at odds with both national and EU laws prohibiting racial discrimination.
Forced evictions of Roma communities is regular practice in a range of European countries such as Romania, Italy, and France. Policies promoting or resulting in ethnic segregation of Romani communities have been also pursued.
More than 120 serious violent attacks against Roma occurred in Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria between January 2008 and July 2012, including shootings, stabbings and arson attacks. State authorities, including the police, have in many instances failed to prevent or thoroughly investigate these attacks.
More than a decade ago, in 2000, the EU adopted the Race Equality Directive that prohibits discrimination based on race or ethnicity in the workplace, in education, and in access to goods and services, housing and health care. As the EU’s executive body, the European Commission is empowered to act against EU member states when they fail to comply with EU law. However, so far this has never happened.
Amnesty’s briefing “Human Rights here. Roma Rights Now. A wake-up call for the European Union" insists that the EU take decisive action to tackle discrimination against Roma in Europe.
“The EU must implement immediately the considerable measures at its disposal to sanction governments that are failing to tackle discrimination and violence against Roma. Such practices run counter to EU law and the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights it was founded on,” says AI Europe and Central Asia Programme Director John Dalhuisen
“What we see is the Commission sanctioning countries on technical issues in areas of transport and taxation, for example, but failing to grapple with issues which are of vital importance to millions of people, such as forced evictions, segregation and hate-motivated attacks.
The Nobel Peace Prize winning EU has the power to end discriminatory practices that are rife in many of its member States. It must use these now.”