Concrete measures to address the discrimination Roma face in Portugal and ways to foster the participation of Roma in society were at the centre of a two day visit the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks made to Lisbon and Torres Vedras on 6-7 March.
“It is heartening to see the positive changes brought about by the participation of Roma mediators in local government and the involvement of community groups in decision making to tackle issues such as discrimination, educational attainment and job opportunities. This pragmatic and participatory approach shows that cooperation between Roma and the majority population at the local level, fostered by strong political leadership, is a worthwhile investment that needs to be supported and sustained” said the Commissioner, after visiting Torres Vedras. This municipality is one of seven in Portugal implementing a mediator programme aimed at developing better relations between Roma, local authorities and the majority population and at supporting the empowerment of Roma. “The programme is a key tool to help overcome entrenched prejudices and stereotypes and foster better community relations. It should be continued and extended to other municipalities.”