Roma and Travellers
Roma and Travellers comprise the largest set of minority groups in Europe. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is working against this discrimination and towards the full integration of more than 12 million Roma and Travellers in its member states.
The Congress has launched several initiatives to combat prejudice against Roma. It has published the Human Rights Handbook for Local and Regional Authorities, which includes a chapter on Roma rights with a reminder of the legal framework and the role that local and regional authorities can play, as well as good practices implemented in several countries. The Congress also launched the European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Roma Inclusion, which aims to create national networks of mayors, as well as a Declaration against Anti-Gypsyism to give all local and regional elected representatives from the 47 Council of Europe member states the opportunity to take a public stand against discrimination towards Roma. Every two years, the Congress also awards the Dosta! Prize to municipalities that have implemented innovative initiatives for Roma integration.
European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Roma Inclusion
The European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Roma Inclusion aims to establish national networks among mayors. These networks work as genuine discussion platforms where mayors can meet and exchange their points of view and good practices.
Declaration of local and regional elected representatives against anti-Gypsyism
In 2017, the Congress endorsed a Declaration against anti-Gypsyism, which gives mayors, as well as local and regional elected representatives from all 47 member states, the possibility of taking a stance against the discrimination of Roma.
Dosta! Congress Prize for municipalities
Every two years the Congress awards the Dosta! Congress Prize to three municipalities from Council of Europe member states that have put in place innovative and creative initiatives to efficiently integrate Roma in the long term within their borders.
The Congress published in 2019 "Human rights handbook for local and regional authorities". One of its three chapters aims to combat discrimination against Roma and Travellers. Examples presented include actions conducted by various local and regional authorities, councils and organisations. Some of the issues addressed in the Handbook are presented below. To view the whole content, download the Handbook in PDF format.
Definitions (p. 80-81)
Europe is home to 10–12 million Roma and Travellers. They comprise the largest set of minority groups in Europe, yet many of us are unable to answer the basic question: Who are the Roma? The term “Roma and Travellers” encompasses on the one hand the wide diversity of the groups: a) Roma, Sinti/Manush, Calé, Kaale, Romanichals, Boyash/Rudari; b) Balkan Egyptians (Egyptians and Ashkali) and c) Eastern groups (Dom, Lom and Abdal); and, on the other hand, groups such as Travellers, Yenish, and the populations designated under the administrative term “Gens du voyage”, as well as persons who identify themselves as Gypsies.
What are their rights (p. 82-84)
In simple terms, Roma do enjoy the same rights as everyone else in your town, city or region. In practice, however, the implementation of this is not as simple as it may seem, as Roma are more vulnerable to exploitation, marginalisation and stigmatisation than other citizens. Furthermore, in many cases Roma are themselves unaware of their rights, let alone of the way to exercise them, because of a decade, if not centuries, of exclusion.
It is for this reason that Roma, together with other groups vulnerable to discrimination mentioned in this handbook, enjoy additional protection, in order to improve their living conditions and their access to health care, education and employment.
Most importantly, Roma enjoy the right to non-discrimination. The aim of the principle of non-discrimination is to allow all individuals an equal and fair chance to access opportunities available in a society, irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
The right to equality and non-discrimination is recognised in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is a cross-cutting issue of concern in different UN and other international human rights instruments and treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter.
Challenges (p. 85-87)
The history of European repression against the Roma dates back to their arrival from India several hundred years ago. Ever since there has been a tendency, especially during difficult times, to make Roma scapegoats for frustration through methods such as enslavement, mass killings, marginalisation or expulsion.
For this reason, and in view of the use of anti- Roma rhetoric by politicians today, Roma are still often rather hesitant to approach authorities, or they even see them as a threat. This fact, combined with their life-style, which is often incompatible with the particularities of globalised societies, including borders, bureaucracies or formalised institutions such as schools, public services, etc., renders the integration of Roma more complex and difficult.
This complex situation will not improve as long as anti-Gypsyism remains deeply rooted in our societies. What is anti-Gypsism in practice? When a mayor does not want to access funds for the improvement of roads or sanitation systems in a Roma neighbourhood because of fear of political backlash; or when authorities do not make an effort to register newborn babies, who then grow up without identification documents and can never register for education, social welfare or employment assistance.
The only solution therefore is the implementation of the principle of non-discrimination and the equal treatment of all citizens by local authorities irrespective of their backgrounds. At the same time, it should be stressed that your job, the job of local and regional authorities, is far from simple. Because of the differences in lifestyle, culture, traditions and structure of the community and due to the low health and education standards in Roma communities, it can be very challenging for a mayor to host and effectively integrate Roma populations. For instance, when it comes to housing, discrimination is at the root of all housing-related problems, such as denial of access to public and private rental housing on an equal footing
The Congress gathered a set of good practices that have been successfully implemented by local and regional authorities that have actively advocate for the inclusion of their Roma and Traveller communities including:
- Facilitating integration into the community
- Providing adequate housing
- Enhancing integration in the labour market and economy
- Protecting vulnerable groups (women, unaccompanied minors)
- Providing better access to education
- Countering hate speech and acts of violent extremism
Recommendations (p. 111-116)
- Facilitating Integration in local community life
- Protecting and integration Roma children
- Providing better access to educations
- Improving access to basic health services
- Enhancing integration into the labour market and the economy
- Fighting anti-Gypsyism and raising awareness
- The situation of Roma and Travellers in the context of rising extremism, xenophobia and the refugee crisis in Europe
- Empowering Roma youth through participation: effective policy design at local and regional levels
- The situation of Roma in Europe: a challenge for local and regional authorities
European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Roma Inclusion
- Strategic guidelines 2016-2019
- Declaration of mayors and elected local and regional representatives of Council of Europe member States against anti-Gypsyism
- Charter of European political parties for a non-racist society
- Summit of mayors on Roma – Building mutual trust at the grassroots
- Roma Youth Action Plan: Combating discrimination and supporting the participation of Roma young people (2016-2020)