An Equinet survey of its members in 2009 found that across the European Union, a high level of unequal treatment and exclusion of Roma and Traveller people exists. Roma and Travellers are deeply marginalised from social and economic life, which in many Member States is increased through stereotyping in the media and a negative culture within the police force. Particularly problematic areas in terms of discrimination are housing, accommodation, education and social services in the public sector and access to insurance, shops and a wide range of recreational and leisure services in the private sector.
At the same time the majority of equality bodies have found that underreporting of discrimination is widespread, with reasons for this phenomenon including low levels of awareness of rights within the Roma and Traveller communities, time limits on the presentation of cases and issues of trust between the communities and the authorities.
Following the survey, an ad hoc initiative on Roma and Travellers was established with the aim of providing support to specialised equality bodies maximizing the impact of their work on the situation of Roma people. The initiative involved the exchange of information and networking between specialised equality bodies working on Roma issues, identifying the nature and extent of this work.
In 2016, the Working Group on Equality Law discussed the work of equality bodies on discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity and multiple discrimination where race and ethnicity intersect with other grounds such as gender, religion or belief. The discussions covered discrimination in all fields of life. The Working Group produced a paper on some of the key legal issues and challenges, available tools and good practices in fighting discrimination on the ground of race and ethnic origin, including a focus on work done to combat discrimination against Roma people, entitled Fighting discrimination on the ground of Race and Ethnic Origin. 17 out of 19 equality bodies indicated that Roma tend to find themselves in particularly vulnerable situations compared to other racial and ethnic minorities.
This paper fed into a 1 ½ day capacity-building seminar for staff members of equality bodies on discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity, organised together with the Hungarian Commissioner for Fundamental Rights in Budapest on 9-10 November 2016. Among other topics the seminar had sessions focusing specifically on legal work and on work done to combat discrimination against Roma people.
The establishment of the cooperation platforms is the result of the joint conference of the Council of Europe (CoE), the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet), the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which took place in October 2013 in Vienna. The conference set the scene for closer cooperation among national bodies and between national and international bodies. It was agreed to establish platforms for collaboration on pressing topics such as asylum and migration, Roma integration, combating hate crime, and advancing social and economic rights and socio-economic equality.
The Operational Platform on Roma Equality (OPRE) focuses in particular on:
In 2016, Equinet and the OPRE Platform released a joint statement, calling on national governments to stop forced evictions of Roma and travellers. The statement highlighted the long-term negative implications of eviction that can result in physical and psychological problems, including emotional trauma and lasting social isolation, which particularly affects elderly people, women, children, and people with disabilities.
On 13 November 2017, the 10th anniversary of the landmark judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the segregation of Roma children in education, equality and human rights Equinet and other international institutions released a joint call to action for a redoubling of efforts to bring children together in the spirit of Europe’s commitment to dignity, equality and human rights.
Furthermore, since January 2016, Equinet is a member of the Council of Europe’s Adhoc Committee of Experts on Roma Issues (CAHROM). Further information available here.
Anti-Gypsyism is still the root-cause of the exclusion and marginalisation of Roma in Europe. The first step towards a new generation of more efficient policies and programmes that will make a real change in the situation of the Roma in Europe is to recognise anti-Gypsyism as a specific form of racism in its various forms and to fight it at all levels of our societies.
This year, on the occasion of the International Roma Day, under the patronage of the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Economic and Social Committee, Council of Europe and City of Brussels, the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network will co-organize the third EU Roma Week in Brussels from 8th to 12th April 2018.
The EU Roma Week consists of a series of events which will provide recommendations on combating anti-Gypsyism and continued structural discrimination of Roma communities as a forefront of the efforts for the social and economic inclusion of Roma.
Among the specific objective of the EU Roma week are:
Via the Council of Europe website.
#EURomaWeek2018 may be used to follow updates on social media.