“Romania needs to step up efforts to eliminate discrimination and improve Roma inclusion”, says Commissioner Hammarberg

Strasbourg, 16/12/10  – “Roma continue to face persistent poverty and discrimination in Romania. Political determination and comprehensive action are urgently needed to improve their situation” said today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, publishing a letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Romania, Emil Boc, following the Commissioner’s visit to Romania last October.

The Commissioner is concerned about the anti-Roma rhetoric expressed by some public figures and media, as well as about the weak implementation of anti-discrimination legislation. “Roma are discriminated against in various areas, not least in employment, education, housing and health care. The government should strengthen its efforts and find inclusive solutions”.

As concerns housing in particular, Commissioner Hammarberg notes that most Roma live in communities segregated from the majority population, without access to basic services such as electricity, running water, central heating, and waste disposal. Forced evictions of Roma families who do not have proof of tenancy pose serious problems: “The right to adequate housing should be safeguarded at all times, and alternative decent shelter should be provided by the authorities in all cases of evictions”.

The Commissioner also underlines the need to strengthen the capacity of local authorities and non-governmental organisations to undertake action to improve the living conditions of Roma and foster their social inclusion. In this context, he welcomes the government’s plan to create mobile units that would assist municipalities in creating community projects aimed at fighting Roma marginalisation, and recommends the swift implementation of the plan in co-operation with Roma civil society.

Commissioner Hammarberg points at the high rates of unemployment among Roma as an additional obstacle to the efforts aimed at alleviating their poverty. “Discrimination in access to employment on grounds of Roma ethnic background is an obstacle for many Roma seeking employment. Resolute action is urgently needed to ensure the long-term integration of Roma into the labour market”.

As regards access of Roma to education, the Commissioner is deeply worried by the fact that a large number of Roma children do not attend schools, and by their high drop-out rates. He also deplores the continuing segregation of Roma students in schools. “In spite of promising initiatives undertaken by the authorities in recent years to tackle this problem, in some communities Roma students are still in separate classrooms or schools. More effective efforts are needed to establish a truly inclusive educational system in line with the member states’ undertakings contained in the Strasbourg Declaration on Roma, adopted last October”.

Finally, the Commissioner recommends the systematic teaching of the Council of Europe’s Factsheets on Roma History in schools, crucial to increasing understanding and respect. “Knowledge about the persecution endured by the Roma populations throughout the centuries is essential for better understanding this minority, and is a key element in fighting prejudice” added the Commissioner.

Read the Letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Romania
Read the Prime Minister’s reply

Press contact in the Commissioner’s Office:
Stefano Montanari, +33 (0)6 61 14 70 37; stefano.montanari@coe.int

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