Amnesty International and OSCE criticize the position of Romani people in Europe
Yesterday, on the occasion of International Romani Day, the non-governmental organization Amnesty International (AI) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) criticized the housing and living situations of Romani people throughout Europe as well as the minority policies of various European countries. The Austrian Press Agency reports that AI has warned that only 38 % of Romani people in Europe are employed.
Both organizations are calling for steps to be taken to improve Romani people's situations. According to Amnesty International, last year thousands of Romani people in Europe were afflicted by or at risk of forced eviction, and their socioeconomic situations are significantly worse than those of majority populations. Reportedly, only 38 % of Romani people in Europe perform paid work, while 31 % of Romani people have attended only six or fewer years of elementary school. Roughly 15 % of Romani people are illiterate. Every fifth Romani person has been the victim of racially motivated crime.
Heinz Patzelt, the Secretary-General of the Austrian branch of Amnesty International, called on European governments to more thoroughly implement measures to combat discrimination against Europe's largest and most disadvantaged minority. In his view, the problem has long been swept under the carpet and it is now time "for Europe to wake up and stop the persecution of those who have been pushed to the margins of society."
Janez Lenarčič, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) called on OSCE member states to advocate for improving Romani people's housing and living situations. He criticized the fact that forced evictions of Romani camps have been performed too frequently in the past without explaining to the residents of such camps what their rights are or providing them substitute accommodation and compensation. Lenarčič said it was urgently important for authorities to legalize Romani people's residency status and provide them with permanent substitute apartments.
International Romani Day commemorates the first World Romani Congress, which took place in 1971 in London. The International Romani Union was also established at that time.
As many as 12 million Romani people live in the 27 Member States of the European Union. They are Europe's largest ethnic minority and to this day are often victims of expulsions and persecution.
The Romani population of Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia totals roughly 3 or 4 million. These countries and the Czech Republic have recently been the scene of conflicts between majority populations and Romani people. Mass displacement and deportations of Romani people from France and Italy have also prompted international discussion.
In the Czech Republic only 13 000 people declared their Romani nationality during last year's census. According to many estimates, such as those by Romani activist Karel Holomek, there are actually about 250 000 Romani people living there.
In the interest of improving Romani people's access to education, employment, health care and housing, in July 2011 the EU adopted its Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020. The Framework is based on each Member State's Roma integration plan.
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