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Spain should create a strong equality body and improve education of Roma and migrants

February 27th 2018

In a report published today, the Council of Europe Anti-racism Commission ECRI calls on the Spanish authorities to create a strong independent equality body, to adopt new comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and to improve the education of Roma and migrant children. The report also acknowledges significant progress in a number of areas.

The report makes 17 recommendations to the Spanish authorities. Within two years ECRI will evaluate compliance with two of them that it considers to be priority recommendations:

  • The Spanish authorities should set up an independent equality body;
  • They should ensure that the share of Roma children completing obligatory schooling quickly increases.

“Spain should establish a strong independent equality body to promote equality and prevent discrimination”, said Jean-Paul Lehners, ECRI Chairperson. “Also, substantial investment is needed in the field of education to ensure that Roma children, but also children originating from outside the EU complete at least compulsory education; Spain should avoid the emergence of a new generation of excluded minority children”, he added.

Roma

ECRI welcomes the achievement of targets for the re-housing of Roma and good practices to prevent school-absenteeism and early school drop-out among Roma children. However, it also points out that the rehousing programmes have contributed to residential and school segregation and that only 45% of Roma children complete compulsory education.

Migrants

Concerning migrants, the report underlines the need to do more to help them to find employment and escape the risk of poverty, and to address the high dropout rate in education of migrant children from outside the EU (44%). ECRI regrets that no new integration strategy for migrants has been adopted since the end of the Strategic Plan on Citizen and Integration in 2014.

Hate Speech

In Spain prejudice exists in particular against Muslims, Roma and LGBT persons. ECRI points out that many cases of hate speech and hate crime are not reported to the authorities. While hate speech is not common in the Spanish mainstream political discourse, it has sharply risen on the Internet and social media. Media regulators do not do enough to prevent and eliminate it.

LGBT

ECRI takes positive note of the general openness towards LGBT persons in Spain and that marriage is open for same-sex couples, which are granted equal rights, also with regard to adoption. Nevertheless, it stresses the need to create conditions under which LGBT people feel comfortable to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity. ECRI recommends intensifying support and protection of young LGBT persons and lowering the conditions for transgender persons to change their name and gender.

Equality body & Anti-racism strategy

In addition, ECRI notes with satisfaction the important work of the network of assistance centres for victims of racial discrimination, but deplores that the current equality body is not independent, does not have an infrastructure of its own and has ceased almost all own activities. Furthermore, the report regrets the slowing down in the implementation of the anti-racism strategy, which needs to be updated and extended.

The report was prepared following ECRI’s visit to Spain in February 2017 and covers the period up to 22 June 2017, except where expressly indicated.

Via ECRI website

Read the Spanish version here.

An independent equality body for Spain

In its previous report, ECRI recommended that the authorities take urgent steps to ensure that Spain’s specialised anti-discrimination body functions according to ECRI’s GPRs No. 2 and 7, in particular as concerns its independence. ECRI pointed out that the Council for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination (CERED), which was set up in 2009, lacked in particular investigation powers and the right to initiate and participate in court proceedings; in addition, the Council was not independent in the sense of ECRI’s GPR No. 2.

The Council’s three principal functions are (i) to provide independent assistance to victims, (ii) to conduct analyses and studies and publish independent reports, and (iii) to promote equal treatment and to issue recommendations and proposals regarding equality and nondiscrimination.

During the first years of its existence, the CERED focussed on assistance to victims through the establishment of the Network for Assistance to Victims of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination, which consists of eight specialised NGOs with 87 offices throughout the country. ECRI welcomes the establishment of this network and the assistance it provides to victims of discrimination. In 2016, it assisted victims in 631 cases.

At the same time, ECRI is very concerned about the further development of the CERED itself. Since 2012 this body has not published any annual report and in mid-2014, its president resigned. Almost three years later, at the time of ECRI’s country visit to Spain in February 2017, no new president had been appointed. As from mid-2015, ECRI was not able to find traces of any significant activities and was informed only about a number of meetings held by the CERED during recent years. The CERED does not have an infrastructure of its own and its budget for staffing was halved from 2012 to 2013; its members are only reimbursed for travel expenses. These have seriously compromised the Council’s sustainability. In practice, the CERED has almost ceased to exist.

Spain greatly lacks an independent body leading in the field of equality and which is capable of bringing about real societal change towards more equality. ECRI therefore considers that the Spanish authorities should now, after the waning of the economic crisis, urgently establish a proper independent body to combat racism and intolerance in line with European standards such as ECRI’s GPRs No. 2 and 7, the EU equality directives and the recent recommendation of the UN CERD. Like the Ombudsperson, this body should be a separate legal person placed outside the executive. The government should not have a decisive influence on the selection of the persons holding leadership positions in the body and the body should have its own budget, separate premises and should appoint its own staff. It should also have the right to receive complaints concerning racism and discrimination, and to provide – possibly together with the network - assistance to victims. It should have appropriate investigation powers and the right to initiate, and participate in, court proceedings. To create a strong and independent equality body, the authorities could consider merging several existing bodies tasked with combating racism and discrimination into an independent institution.

ECRI again recommends that the authorities take urgent steps to set up an independent equality body or to ensure that the Council for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination is fully independent and provided with the competences and powers outlined in ECRI’s General Policy Recommendations No. 2 and 7.