The European Commission’s EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies 2011-2020 draws to its conclusion this year. This perspective seeks to assist the Commission in preparing a post 2020 EU Framework by gathering, analysing and presenting the work and experience of equality bodies across Europe in responding to the situation, experience, and specific needs of Roma and Traveller communities.
Equality bodies report widespread discrimination against, stereotyping of, and hate speech against Roma and Traveller communities. Discrimination and inequality are seen across the fields of accommodation, health, education, employment, and access to goods and services, in all jurisdictions. There is a shared concern at under-reporting, with a need to enhance the capacity of Roma and Travellers to know and exercise their rights.
Substantive equality needs to be established for policies and programmes, evident in outcomes for Roma and Travellers, adaptations for their culture and identity, and the elimination of discrimination. Issues of systemic or structural discrimination need to be addressed.
Poverty, dependence on inadequate social welfare benefits, and low incomes are reported as a further linked, ongoing, and significant issue. Policing issues are also reported by a number of equality bodies. In particular, ethnic profiling, arbitrary actions by the authorities, and police aggression are identified along with lack of training for police on issues of equality, diversity, and discrimination. Public discourse is characterised by hostility towards and stereotyping of Roma and Traveller people. This is exacerbated in the current Covid-19 pandemic context. Hate speech, both online and in public, is an issue in many instances.
Equality bodies are engaged in actions to provide advice and assistance to Roma and Travellers to bring forward discrimination cases; receive and hear complaints of discrimination by Roma and Travellers; act as amicus curiae in cases involving Roma and Travellers; and pursue own-initiative or ex-officio cases of discrimination that relate to Roma and Travellers.
The promotion of good practice by equality bodies contributes to the institutional change required to dismantle systemic discrimination experienced by Roma and Travellers in many jurisdictions. The work reported by equality bodies includes the provision of training; development of guidance documents; creating platforms for peer support and exchange of good practice; and supporting a positive engagement between service providers and Roma and Travellers.
Equality bodies report significant levels of research in relation to Roma and Traveller communities. The research has a particular focus on the level and nature of discrimination experienced by these communities, public attitudes to diversity and to Roma and Travellers in particular, and Roma and Traveller attitudes to discrimination.
Equality bodies have an advisory function in relation to policy-making, particularly in the areas of education, health, social care, and accommodation. Equality bodies report engaging in this work through making policy recommendations and publishing opinions; making recommendations in their annual reports; shadow reporting on international human rights instruments; and engaging in the processes relating to national Roma integration strategies.
Equality bodies address a range of audiences in their communication work on Roma and Traveller issues. In particular they address Roma and Traveller communities in relation to their rights and how to exercise these; the general public to promote a recognition of cultural diversity and an understanding of Roma and Traveller aspirations and situations; and public and private sector institutions on good practice and on the implications of equal treatment legislation for their work.
Discrimination against Roma is an everyday reality of European societies, characterised by systemic racism and anti-Gypsyism…The post 2020 EU Framework on Roma Equality and Inclusion Strategies, being prepared by the European Commission, should contribute to the step-change required in the situation and experience of Roma and Traveller communities.Read our blog post Equality for Roma and Traveller: Time to Deliver by the Perspective’s author Niall Crowley and Deputy Director Tamás Kádár.
Strategies that fail to pursue institutional change and that focus solely on enabling change with Roma and Traveller communities in effect blame Roma and Travellers for their situation and experience. Equality bodies emphasise the need for a thorough evaluation of current strategies combined with a detailed analysis of current and future needs at Member State level.
The European Commission could usefully continue its work to enable an active and effective engagement by equality bodies on Roma and Traveller issues. This could include initiatives to sustain and enhance:
The forthcoming EU framework should include a comprehensive anti-discrimination focus with specific measures to:
For concrete examples of the work of equality bodies, as well as further suggestions on developing the post 2020 EU Framework on Roma Equality and Inclusion Strategies, please read our perspective.