ERRC: No Place in School for Roma Children in France?
According to research conducted by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) in the beginning of 2014, children of many Roma in France have restricted access to primary education. More than half of those surveyed are out of school. The ERRC calls on French authorities to provide the children of Roma EU citizens with access to education.
The ERRC conducted participatory field research in six informal Romani settlements (in Seine-Saint-Denis, Marseille, and Lille), including interviews with 118 EU Romani citizens. The research was conducted with the active participation of six Romani women from Romania living in France.
The research shows that Roma who have moved to France from other EU Member States are exposed to high levels of discrimination and stereotyping resulting in the violations of their rights, notably the rights of their children.
''For my part, I did everything that was necessary and possible to enrol my child in school. We provided all the documents and papers. It’s the mayor that blocks the situation. Because they are Roma children, they treat them differently'' – stated a mother in Aulnay Sous Bois during an interview with the ERRC.
Less than half of the children of EU Romani citizens interviewed during this research are attending schools in France. According to interviews conducted by the ERRC, in most (60%) of the cases this was due to refusal of local officials, mostly French mayors, to enrol Romani children in school. This is despite the fact that French law makes it compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 16, French and foreign, to attend school.
“Refusal to enrol children is in direct violation of the national and international obligations of France. It also jeopardises the future of these children, diminishes their employment opportunities, and further aggravates the social exclusion of these Romani communities” – said Rob Kushen, the Chair of the Board of the ERRC.
On average the Roma EU citizens surveyed had been evicted six times since they arrived in France. These evictions are also detrimental to the situation of Romani children. Parents expressed their deep concerns that evictions cause psychological damage to their children and disrupt schooling.
The ERRC calls on the French authorities to investigate all reported instances of refusal to enrol Romani children, pursue sanctions against offending mayors, and provide support and information to Romani communities regarding the enrolment of their children. Authorities and courts should ensure that the best interests of children are a primary consideration in the context of any eviction.
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