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EU FRA: 80 % of Roma in Europe at risk of poverty, 85 % of Roma in the Czech Republic are discriminated against

1.12.2016 11:09
EU flags in front of the European Commission building in Brussels (PHOTO: Sébastien Bertrand, Wikimedia commons)
EU flags in front of the European Commission building in Brussels (PHOTO: Sébastien Bertrand, Wikimedia commons)

The lives of Romani people throughout the European Union (EU) are being destroyed by omnipresent deprivation. A new report by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) of the EU has found that Romani families are living excluded from society in shocking conditions and Romani children with low educational attainment do not have much hope of a better future.

The report analyzes deficiencies in the area of Roma inclusion in the EU with the aim of providing Member States a yardstick for measuring improvement achieved by their integration policies. Jaroslav Kling, a research worker at the agency, said that in the Czech Republic 58 % of Romani people are endangered by poverty.

Among the nine Member States surveyed, the Czech outcome was the lowest rate of impoverishment, but compared to the overall population of the Czech Republic, the poverty rate for Romani people is significantly disproportionate. "Our apparent inability to honor the human rights of Romani communities in Europe is unacceptable. The degree of deprivation, discrimination and marginalization of Europe's most numerous minority is a serious failure of our legal regulations and of politicians in the EU and its Member States," said FRA director Michael O'Flaherty.

"Publishing these findings offers us an opportunity to get political actors to take action and also to concentrate resources on correcting this unacceptable situation," O'Flaherty said. Romani people in the Czech Republic are, according to the report, the least endangered by poverty in the countries surveyed and also work more frequently.

However, Romani people in the Czech Republic are also among the Roma of Europe who most frequently encounter discrimination. Almost two-thirds of Romani people in the Czech Republic (85 %) have grappled with discrimination in recent years.

Romani people in the Czech Republic experience discrimination most frequently when seeking housing and work. O'Flaherty told Czech Radio that in his judgment, that high number may indcate that Romani people in the Czech Republic are more aware of their rights than Roma elsewhere are.

The FRA director also said he does not believe that just because the situation of Romani people in the Czech Republic appears more favorable in comparison to other states does not mean it is actually better. According to him, it is just "less bad".

"When we compare Romani people in the Czech Republic with Romani people in other Member States, their situation doesn't look so bad. However, in comparison with the overall population in the Czech Republic, Romani people are significantly worse off, there are enormous deficits there," researcher Kling pointed out.

The report states that in Bulgaria, for example, 86 % of Romani people are endangered by impoverishment while only 22 % of the overall population there is at risk of poverty. According to the FRA's findings, just 30 % of Romani people in the countries surveyed could be included in the "paid employment" category, while the average employment rate in the EU for 2015 was actually 70 %.

From the personal interviews conducted by the FRA staffers during the research it was determined that in almost 20 % of Romani households in the Czech Republic at least one family member went to sleep hungry during the past month because the household could not afford food for all members. "That is a serious indicator of poverty, " Kling said.

Even in this aspect, however, the Czech Republic is ultimately basically above-average in the EU, because only 30 % of the Romani households interviewed were in such a situation. The FRA report found that 30 % of Romani people in the countries surveyed live in households without running water, and 46 % have neither a bathtub, shower or WC in their dwelling.

In the Czech Republic, according to Kling, the housing situation is comparatively better, and Romani people frequently reside in apartment buildings that are municipally owned. "In Hungary, Romania, or Slovakia, most Romani people live in rural areas with far less access to such accommodation," he noted.

The FRA has also ascertained that just 53 % of Romani children attend nursery school, and in many of the countries followed, the proportion of Romani children in preschool is less than half that of children of the same age from the overall population - in the Czech Republic, more than one-third of Romani children attend preschool, an increase over the proportion found by the first such survey in 2011. The FRA reports that almost all Romani children attend primary school in the Czech Republic, and the 98 % enrollment rate found for them is all but identical with data for the population as a whole.

However, Kling reports that the situation with Romani children in the "practical schools" for the mentally disabled is unchanged and that 16 % of Romani children attend such schools. "Moreover, most Romani children between six and 15 attend a school where either all or most of the children are Romani. Segregation, therefore, continues to persist," he noted, adding that the numbers show that Romani chldren have difficulties transferring between primary and secondary school in the Czech Republic.

"[Secondary school] is basically the springboard to the labor market [in the Czech Republic]," Kling pointed out. "Half of [Romani] youth between 16-24 are neither in school nor working."

In the general population of the Czech Republic only 8 % of 16-24-year-olds are neither employed nor studying. In this category the Czech Republic is "better" compared to the other countries surveyed.

Romani people in the Czech Republic reported feeling discriminated against disproportionately frequently because of their ethnic origin (85 % compared to 47 % elsewhere) or their skin color (73 % compared to 45 % elsewhere). The report is the second such investigation of discrimination and minorities in the European Union (EU-MIDIS II) on Roma and its selected findings also demonstrate that:

  • 80 % of Romani respondents are at risk of poverty, while only 17 % of the EU population is on average
  • 30 % of Romani people live in households without running water and 46 % do not have either a bathtub, shower or WC in their dwelling
  • 30 % of Romani children live in households where a family member has gone to bed hungry during the past month
  • 53 % of Romani children attend nursery school, while in many countries the proportion of Romani children in preschool is less than half of the proportion of non-Romani children in preschool
  • just 30 % of the Romani people surveyed have paid employment, while average employment in the EU in 2015 was 70 %
  • 41 % of Romani people felt they had been victims of discrimination in everyday situations during the last five years, for example, when finding work, while in the workplace, or when accessing education, housing and health care
  • 82 % of Romani people are unaware of the existence of organizations that provide aid to victims of discirmination

The findings indicate that the Member States, despite their efforts, continue to fall behind when it comes to fulfilling most of their aims with respect to Roma integration, which is a basic element of the EU's 2011 framework guiding the Member States' domestic Roma integration strategies. The findings point to the necessity for:

  • support for integrated education and for preschool education of Romani children
  • better work opportunities and greater social protection in order to eradicate Romani poverty
  • targeted education and career preparation that specifically focuses on aiding young Romani people and Romani women of all ages during the transition from primary to secondary school and then when finding employment

The report is based on a survey that accumulated information in nine Member States of the EU from almost 8 000 personal interviews conducted with members of the Romani community. It is a component of the second investgiation into discrimination and minorities in the EU (the EU-MIDIS II) by the Fundamental Rights Agency, which included data collection about the experiences of immigrants and members of ethnic miorities with discrimination and victimization and information about their incomes and living conditions in all 28 Member States of the EU.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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