This networking initiatives focuses on the inequality and discrimination experienced by the Traveller/Gypsy/Roma communities in Europe. The initiative centres around the exchange of information and networking between specialised equality bodies working on Roma issues in order to support them to maximise the positive impact of their work on the situation of Roma people.
In 2011 Equinet, with the support of its members experienced in work on Roma issues, produced a fact sheet in order to encourage and inform the participation of national equality bodies in the development, implementation and monitoring of the National Roma Integration Strategies in their Member States.
Today the initiative is coordinated by the Greek Office of the Ombudsman and the Swedish Discrimination Ombud with the assistance of the Equinet Secretariat.
The Equinet Strategic Plan 2011 – 2014 outlines continued work on the initiative, in particular with regards to its strategy of Peer Support to Enhance Institutional Development of Equality Bodies.
Creation of a Steering Group
In 2009 the Equinet Business plan outlined the need to focus some network’s attention towards the discrimination and inequality faced by Roma communities. As a result a Steering Group, made up of the Greek Office of the Ombudsman (lead body), the Bulgarian Commission for Protection against Discrimination, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Swedish Discrimination Ombud was created and given responsibility for the coordination of the initiative.
Equinet Survey on Roma and Travellers
During the summer of 2009 a survey was disseminated to Equinet members and observers to gather information and data on the key elements of national equality bodies work with Roma and Travellers.
The survey found that a high level of unequal treatment and exclusion of Roma and Traveller people across the European Union. There is a deep marginalisation of Roma and Travellers from social and economic life which in many Member States is increased by stereotyping in the media and a negative culture within police forces. 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 recreation and leisure services in the private sector.
At the same time the majority of equality bodies found that underreporting of discrimination is widespread, with suggested 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 authorities.
Equinet Round Tables on Roma and Travellers in 2009
In 2009 two Equinet round tables on Roma and Travellers were held. The first was held in June in Athens and the second in December in Paris. These meetings provided an opportunity for equality bodies to engage discussion and exchange information on the most frequent cases of Roma discrimination.
The discussion at these events focused on four key themes:
Equinet Opinion on Roma and Travellers
Building on the results of the survey and the discussions of the round tables, Equinet published the opinion “Making Equality Legislation work for Roma and Travellers”. This publication provides a summary of the discussions and survey results, it sets out good practice by equality bodies in the field and highlights approaches that equality bodies, national and local authorities, civil society and the European Union could usefully take in the future to provide a safe space for Roma and Travellers and further empower them.
Equinet presented this opinion at the EU Roma summit in Cordoba, April 2010.
Equinet Round Table 2010
In September 2010, Equinet organised a third round table on Roma and Travellers in Athens in order to continue the successful networking, to follow-up and further explore the recommendations in the Equinet opinion and to identify new possible initiatives in order for the equality bodies to engage effectively with Roma and Traveller people.
In 2010 members of the Equinet working group Dynamic Interpretation engaged in a case study analysis of discrimination against a woman of Roma origin in the provision of municipal housing. This comparative exercise provided members with the opportunity to focus on the interpretation of European and national equality legislation in the context of Roma. The Equinet publication Dynamic Interpretation - European Anti-Discrimination Law in Practice V presents the findings of this case study.