The Council of Europe’s expert body on the rights of national minorities has highlighted troublingly persistent levels of antigypsyism in the United Kingdom, as well as racial and ethnic bullying in schools. Linguistic minorities also need greater levels of support. These are among the main findings of the latest opinion on the UK by the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The UK ratified the convention, which is legally binding under international law, in 1998.
The opinion states that a wealth of civil society organisations continue to promote the rights of national minorities in the United Kingdom, but the instrumentalisation of human rights for party-political ends limits the space for those seeking to defend minority rights. Recent legislative changes and proposals – including the review of the Human Rights Act, the Nationality and Borders Act and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act – raise many concerns for national minorities and threaten to weaken the protection of minority rights.
The Advisory Committee expresses particular concern about the situation facing Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the UK, citing issues related to their legal status, a systematic shortage of sites and access to education and healthcare. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act has criminalised trespass with a vehicle and sparked profound fear among this minority, according to the opinion.
The Advisory Committee issued a number of recommendations to the UK authorities on how best to address these issues, including five recommendations for immediate action.
The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the United Kingdom