8 April is International Roma Day, a day on which to celebrate the Romani culture across the world and to raise awareness of the issues and problems that the Roma communities face. Europe’s largest ethnic minority - an estimated 10 million Roma live in Europe and six million within the EU - is often subject to discrimination and social exclusion.
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. A further output was the publication “Making equality legislation work for Roma and Travellers”.
In 2016, the Working Group on Equality Law will discuss 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 will cover discrimination in all fields of life. The Working Group will produce a paper on some of the key challenges identified, including a focus on work done to combat discrimination against Roma people.
This paper will feed into a 1 ½ day capacity-building seminar for staff members of equality bodies on discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity, which Equinet aims to organise in November 2016. Among other topics the seminar will have 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) will focus in particular on:
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.
Antigypsyism 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 antigypsyism as a specific form of racism in its various forms and to fight it at all levels of our societies.
On the occasion of the International Roma Day, a number of events will be organised under the umbrella of the "Roma Week" in Brussels. The main objective of the week is to consolidate the commitment of the European Parliament and other institutions to fight against antigypsysism and to formulate this commitment into action. It will be an occasion to pursue the work to establish 2nd August as the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day in line with the European Parliament resolution of April 2015. The Roma week will promote positive images and narratives of Roma and their role in the European society at large and it will celebrate the contribution of Roma to the European history, arts and culture.
This year’s International Roma Day commemorates the 45th anniversary of the first World Romani World Congress that was organised on 8 April in 1971.