No to Romania’s Schengen entry

ImageFrench President Francois Hollande will block Romania’s bid to enter the Schengen zone on January 1, 2014, according to an unnamed source from the French Government.

Quoted by the French media, the source claimed the French President supports the position of France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who recently expressed concerns over the influx of Roma to the country.

As a consequence of this firm line, Hollande will reject Romanian’s ascension to the passport free zone, the source states.

 “An associate of the President is categorical: Romania will be refused the Schengen entry on January 1, 2014, as the conditions are not met,” The French website Europe1.fr writes.

“Most of the Roma are destined to be escorted back to their origin country.”

The statement quoted by TheEurope1.fr is in line with remarks recently made by Manuel Vells.

However this time, the comments were attributed to Francois Hollande.

“Only a minority seeks to integrate,” he is reported to have said.

Europe1.fr added that the President’s opinion goes further than concerns over a Roma influx and takes into account the difficulties faced by elected officials.

The president asks: “Whether France is destined to host all those most vulnerable?”

The statement, notes Europe1.fr, echoes the words of Michel Rocard, who back in 1990 said: “France can’t host all the misery of the world”.

Recently, Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, has also expressed her concerns over Romania and Bulgaria’s Schengen entry.

However, earlier in September, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Romania and Bulgaria have met the criteria for Schengen area membership and should be given a chance to enter the zone as soon as possible.

Both countries have been refused access into the Schengen area in the last few years, with several countries taking turns in opposing it.


Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January

Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January is an occasion for Jews and Roma (Gypsies) to remind the world how their families were terrorised and butchered by the Nazis in World War II.


The Roma people of Vlasca a village in southeastern Romania told BBC this story.

The Roma here, a traditional metal workers called Caldarasi are closed and inward-looking. They are reluctant to talk to anyone from outside the community.

It took weeks of negotiation to hear the accounts of Holocaust survivors in the village.

Historians often call it “the forgotten Holocaust”. Up to 500,000 Roma are believed to have died in mass shootings and Nazi gas chambers.

Recent studies have brought more of their suffering to public attention, but to this day little is known about the Roma targeted for persecution and extermination by the allies of the Third Reich on the eastern front.

Sandu Stanescu remembers how, in the early summer of 1942, some policemen installed a table by the road, covered it with papers and made lists: Roma families, extended families, communities – shatras.

The Nazi-backed ruler of Romania – military dictator Ion Antonescu – had just received his reward for attacking the Soviet Union: Trans-Dniester, “the land beyond the Dniester”. It was a chunk of land in the east, between the rivers Dniester and Bug.

The territory, most of it part of today’s Ukraine, became Nazi Romania’s ethnic “dustbin” for Jews and Roma.

Conveniently the nomadic Roma had carts and horses and the police only had to escort them across the border.

But as soon as the convoys reached Trans-Dniester, the Romanian authorities confiscated everything.

“We lost our carts, horses, all our baggage and all the gold our fathers had hidden in the carts’ shafts,” Mr Stanescu says.

In freezing cold, with no food, thousands of Roma were marched towards the river Bug. The survivors were forced to live in camps of flimsy hovels on the outskirts of war-torn villages, or in stables on deserted collective farms, to provide forced labour.

“My father, Mihai Gheorghe, died there, my mother Maria died there, both my brothers died there,” says Mihai Gogu.

“They died because of the bitter cold, because there was nothing to eat and you couldn’t wash. I think filth was the main killer: lice were crawling everywhere, like teeming ants in an anthill. That was our ordeal.”

One man speaks of “beatings, disease and bitterness in the fields”.

Mihai Iorga recalls how his mother had “brought with her some embroidered pieces of cloth, like those ones people arrange on walls under the icons”.

His sharp grey eyes are moist and he stands in the middle of the gathering to tell the story better.

“She tried to sell those in the neighbouring village, for food. But a Romanian policeman and a Ukrainian guard saw her, beat her badly and threatened to shoot her. She rushed back home crying.

“Me and my brothers begged her not to go again. But the following day off she went. She did what she did and managed to find another way to sneak back into the village.

“We waited and waited, fearing she might never come back… But lo and behold, there she was, carrying two buckets of potatoes and sweet cornflour! Oh, how we hugged her, how we kissed her! She then baked those potatoes straight on the flame because we were left with nothing, not even a pan or dish for cooking.

“Afterwards she managed to find a small tin. She melted some snow in it, there was no other source of water, and made a nice tiny polenta. It was so good! We felt so good!”

In 1944, when the war front moved west and the Romanian administration withdrew from Trans-Dniester, the Roma had to walk back hundreds of miles, “covered in mud, covered in bitterness”.

A teenager at the time, Mihai Gogu was the only survivor in his family and saw many children dying on the road.

“We walked back, barefoot. Parents carried children on their shoulders. But time and again, one of these little ones would slip and fall off the grown-up’s back. They died of hunger.”

Mihai Iorga’s father was taken ill and died during the return journey. It was his mother who managed to see her children safely to Romania.

During the deportation pregnant Roma women were killed because they were unable to walk fast enough.

“A heavily pregnant woman was shot before my eyes,” Maria Mihai recalls. “She fell on the ground. And the baby started struggling inside her.”

The women remember how their mothers had to find water and food miles away from the camps, there were long queues at the wells, sometimes the water sources had dried up. They remember their mothers making clothes out of thick brown paper potato sacks.

But most stories revolve around the constant fear of being raped by the armed guards.

“Both my parents died. I was only a girl, in the flower of my youth. That was very dangerous. They tried to take us young girls by force,” says Natalia Mihai.

There were horsemen hunting women and little girls hiding under their mothers’ long-layered Gypsy skirts.

“Once they put a gun at a girl’s neck and raped her, something like a whole committee raped her and they were shouting and chanting,” says Floarea Stanescu.

But Natalia Mihai asks her to stop: “Don’t remind me of all that, I feel like dying”.

A report by the International Commission for the Study of the Romanian Holocaust says the number of Roma victims in Trans-Dniester is difficult to establish, mainly because the lists of deportees were negligently put together.

Some 25,000 Roma deportees are accounted for and the number of dead is thought to be 11,000. According to the report, half of the deported Roma were children and the women were frequently subjected to brutal sexual attacks.

Now that the Roma women in Vlasca have finished their stories, the men are back.

Both groups make a few final comments about the food in Trans-Dniester. “The Ukrainians used to catch those underground creatures, moles, you know”, says Maria Mihai. “They skinned these animals and either ate them or sold them to us.”

“Yes,” says Mihai Iorga, “I ate moles too, on the banks of the Bug”.

“And when we saw those moles, we wept with revulsion,” continues Maria Mihai. “And we ate dogs, too… Yes, dead dogs, sweet Jesus, we were given dog meat, too.”

“But in the summer, the mussels in the Bug were a luxury,” says Mihai Iorga. “She knew how to cook those, my poor mum.”

Most of the Holocaust survivors in Vlasca have received compensation via the International Organization for Migration, in Geneva.


Governments should act in the best interest of stateless children


Yesterday I have recieved this newsletter from Mr Nils Muižnieks Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.

You can follow this twitter account at @CommissionerHR


Citizenship is the “right to have rights”. Without citizenship, one lacks not only political rights, but often social and economic rights as well. On a symbolic level, citizenship implies being a full member of a national community, and even further, of humanity.

Hundreds of thousands of persons in Europe do not have citizenship of any state. Statelessness is not disappearing with time, but being transmitted over generations. Governments should act more vigorously to break this cycle by targeting measures to end statelessness, especially among children.

The best interest of the child is to have citizenship

There should be no stateless children in Europe. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by every Council of Europe member state, provides that all children have a right to a nationality. The Convention’s overarching principle is that “In all actions concerning children […] the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” It is clearly in the best interest of the child to have citizenship from birth.

While children are vulnerable, the risk of statelessness is greatest among the poorest and most excluded – minorities, the displaced, refugees, orphans, and the illiterate. Statelessness increases the vulnerability of children to serious human rights violations, such as trafficking, labour and sexual exploitation, as well as illegal adoption. This means that stateless children often face multiple, mutually reinforcing forms of marginalization.

Stateless children can be found all over Europe

The origins of statelessness in Europe are diverse. In some cases, statelessness derives from migration and conflicting nationality legislation. In others, it is a consequence of state succession or state restoration. Many Roma face obstacles in proving or acquiring a nationality due to a lack of personal identity documents, especially birth certificates.

While data broken down by age are rare, UNHCR estimates that the successor states of the former Yugoslavia have about 22,000 stateless persons.  Another 22,000 to 50,000 persons in these countries are at risk of statelessness, which often means they lack identity documents. Though some are from other former Yugoslav republics, most are local Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptians. Over the last 20 years NGOs estimate that about 15,000 stateless Roma from former Yugoslavia settled in Italy, where they do not possess citizenship of Italy or any other state.

Another significant population of stateless children lives in Latvia and Estonia. Legislation in Latvia grants a special status to 304,000 “non-citizens” while Estonia has some 92,000 “aliens” or “persons of undetermined citizenship”.  Among them, at the end of 2011, there were about 1,500 stateless children under the age of 15 in Estonia and approximately 9,000 in Latvia. While parents have the right to register these children as citizens, many do not, either because they are unaware of this opportunity or are so alienated that they opt to leave their children stateless. The Estonian and Latvian governments have allowed this situation to persist, permitting parents to choose a status that is not in the best interests of the child.

Two other European countries with a significant number of stateless persons are Russia and Ukraine, where the primary risk groups include Roma and persons belonging to minorities deported under Stalin. A recent census put the number of self-identified stateless persons in the Russian Federation at 178,000. In Ukraine, the figure is believed to be around 40,000, which includes almost 7,000 formerly deported persons who returned to Crimea.

What governments should do

States should reach out to vulnerable groups, such as the Roma, and ensure that all children are registered in birth registry books immediately after their birth. States should grant citizenship automatically at birth to children born in their territory who would otherwise be stateless and not permit parents to choose an option that is clearly not in the child’s interest. States should also establish effective and accessible administrative procedures for all persons to acquire nationality, prioritising access for children and their guardians. NGOs and bar associations that provide counselling and free legal aid may play a key role in these processes.

Effective policy must be based on reliable data. States should collect disaggregated statelessness data on a regular basis.  They should also cooperate more effectively in order to solve cases of statelessness in regions affected by state succession, such as the former Yugoslavia, where persons need to access documents from different countries in order to establish their nationality. Finally, states should accede to the relevant international conventions on statelessness (the 1954 and 1961 UN Conventions and the 1997 and 2006 Council of Europe Conventions).

Governments should stop foisting the blame on history, other states or on “irresponsible parents,” but rather take the initiative to address statelessness and prioritise the best interests of the child.


Positions on the human rights of Roma


Photo by Yuumi Ishida, Japan

Strasbourg, 30 May 2010

Positions on the human rights of Roma
Position Paper from the Commissioner for Human Rights

This is a collection of Positions on Roma rights from the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. It is a short summary of the findings of the Commissioner based on his country-monitoring and thematic reports, issue papers, recommendations, opinions and viewpoints. By collating these findings drawn from the different components of his work, the Commissioner presents a summary of his conclusions and recommendations concerning Roma rights. The Positions will be continuously updated in the further light of the Commissioner’s ongoing work.

There is a shameful lack of implementation concerning the human rights of Roma. The issue has been put on the agenda of all major international organisations and national governments in Europe, for example through national action plans, but without much impact.

The Roma population – whether citizens, displaced persons or migrants – is worse off than any other group in Europe when it comes to education, health, employment, housing and political participation. Roma continue to suffer from widespread discrimination and anti-Gypsyism which feed the cycle of their disadvantage, exclusion, segregation and marginalisation.

In many countries hate speech, harassment and violence against Roma are commonplace, including alarming levels of violence and abuse by law enforcement officials. In recent years, migration of Roma from certain Council of Europe member states to others has given rise to further anti-Gypsyism and discrimination in receiving states1.

A comprehensive and human rights-based approach

Today’s rhetoric against the Roma is very similar to that used by Nazis and fascists before the mass killings started in the thirties and forties. Once more, it is argued that the Roma are a threat to safety and public health. No distinction is made between a few criminals and the overwhelming majority of the Roma population. This is shameful and dangerous.

A coherent, comprehensive and adequately resourced programme is needed to improve the situation of Roma, addressing problems in different fields of life simultaneously. A lesson from experiences to date is that proactive measures are absolutely crucial. It is not sufficient to remove obstacles – there is a need to compensate for the long history of exclusion and marginalisation through positive action.

A holistic approach is essential due to the inter-linked nature of these problems. For instance, problems in education affect chances of employment, which in turn affect housing, which in turn affect health.

Such an approach would be in accordance with the guidelines contained in Recommendation CM/Rec(2008)5 on policies for Roma and/or Travellers in Europe, adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. The member states need to draw upon this Recommendation and promptly implement it.

Holistic strategies need to involve short and long-term action plans, targets and indicators for implementing policies. They need to not only address problems from a social, cultural or economic angle, but must also tackle discrimination and anti-Gypsyism.

In order for such strategies to be effective, the full participation by Roma themselves in the development, implementation and evaluation of the strategies is key. Another key factor is that they be drawn up and implemented in close co-operation with regional and local authorities. It is often the action or inaction of such authorities that has a concrete effect on the daily lives of Roma. The implementation of strategies also needs to be regularly monitored and evaluated.

Member states also need to firmly anchor change by acting promptly to fill the existing serious gaps in the protection of the human rights of Roma. Key steps involve adopting and implementing comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and adopting Protocol No 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights. Laws against racially motivated violence and hate speech also need to be adopted. It is essential that these laws be fully implemented with effective and accessible remedies available to Roma who allege violations of their human rights. The establishment of low-threshold complaints bodies, such as specialised ombudspersons and anti-discrimination tribunals, are important steps to improving access to justice for Roma. Member states should also sign and ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and recognise Roma as a national minority, entitled to the individual and collective rights guaranteed by this Convention.

Roma participation in decision-making

Roma must be seen as key partners and be fully empowered in setting out and implementing the agenda for securing their own rights. All too often Roma themselves have been excluded from discussions on how their situation might be improved. Consultations with experts should always include participants of Roma origin. It is essential that Roma people be fully involved in all decisions concerning them at as grassroots a level as possible. Furthermore, it is critical that a wide range of measures be taken to guarantee the right of Roma to participate in the general administration of public affairs, on an equal footing, be it in elected bodies or in positions within an administration.

Governments should repeal any laws or regulations which discriminate directly or indirectly against Roma in the area of political participation, such as discriminatory regulations regarding voter registration. Other barriers, such as the widespread problem of lack of personal identification documents, must also be addressed as a high priority. More outreach efforts are also needed to secure voter registration. In addition, civic education in Roma communities should be actively promoted by governmental and non-governmental actors; such programs should cover human rights as well as practical aspects of the electoral or judicial systems.

Furthermore, positive steps are needed to promote Roma candidates within political parties and their election at European, national and local levels, for example through reserved seats for Roma representatives in assemblies. Such positive steps are also needed within public administrations to promote the employment of Roma, for instance through the setting of quotas for Roma employment, targeted training or internship programmes for Roma and special efforts to encourage Roma applicants for positions. It is important that such measures also reach Roma women.

It is also essential that mechanisms for equal, direct and open consultation with Roma representatives and communities are established at European, national and local levels. The establishment of consultative or advisory bodies, for instance for Roma inclusion or equality, could give such consultations continuity and promote the legitimacy of Roma representatives. However, permanent consultative bodies need to be complemented by other consultations with different segments of Roma communities, for example between local authorities and the Roma population on housing and other concrete problems. It is crucial that consultations do not just concern a handful of representatives, but a broader range of voices representing different interests and identities within Roma communities, including women and youth. It is also essential that consultation be genuine and meaningful; any tendency towards symbolic action without real content will backfire.

Roma non-governmental organisations should be respected by authorities and supported in their activities. Such organisations are an important form of Roma participation and are themselves key vehicles for further political participation and capacity building of Roma representatives.


Member states need to act with more energy than they have done so far to provide nationality to the tens of thousands of Roma across Europe who are currently stateless. It is an obligation for states to avoid statelessness, including in the context of state succession, i.e. when new states are created. Both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulate that children shall have the right to acquire a nationality. In other words, the host country has an obligation to ensure that children do have a nationality; the fact that their parents are stateless is no excuse.

Access to basic documents

Authorities urgently need to take steps to provide documents to those Roma lacking basic documents, such as birth certificates, personal identity documents, local residence papers and documents related to health and social security benefits. Administrative and financial obstacles preventing Roma from obtaining such basic documents should be removed and awareness raising measures taken to provide Roma with information about procedures for acquiring them. Special attention should be paid to the plight of the thousands of Roma and their families who were forced to move from or within the area of the former Yugoslavia, and who remain in host states for a number of years as legal ghosts.

Health care and social security

Resolving problems related to documents is also key to improving access to health care and social services. Urgent steps have been required in these sectors for many years. In the health sector access to emergency care is vital, but also to regular health care, including preventive care and vaccinations. Refusals by doctors or hospitals to treat Roma patients need to be effectively prevented through anti-discrimination legislation and measures taken to address discriminatory attitudes amongst health care and social service employees. Effective access for Roma to legal aid is another key measure which member states should adopt in this context.

Providing a quality, inclusive education

Education for Roma children must be inclusive and desegregated, and the persistent common practice of special “Roma” classes or schools must be terminated. Comprehensive measures have to be taken to increase the attendance of Roma children in mainstream schools and to deter dropping out. Special attention should be paid to the education of Roma girls, who suffer from double discrimination as Roma and as women.

It is especially important to recognise the value of pre-school education, in order to lower the entry threshold for children coming from a background where there is no tradition for studying and to familiarise children with the school institution. Pre-school classes may also play an especially important role in overcoming language barriers Roma children might face.

With respect to all levels of education, it is crucial that steps be taken to eliminate barriers to school attendance, such as:

· ensuring that financial considerations do not impede school attendance, via provisions for free schooling, financial assistance with school supplies and materials, and financial subsidies to parents;

· removing legal and bureaucratic obstacles to school attendance, such as the lack of identity documents and residence permits;

· providing Roma children with transportation to schools;

· placing an obligation on schools to enrol students regardless of their administrative status;

· taking firm measures to address the harassment of Roma children in schools.

ln recent years, a wide range of measures to improve Roma participation and achievement in schools have been tested in different locations. Some successful measures that have been identified include:

· special training for teachers on how to handle classes with diverse backgrounds;
· teachers and teaching assistants who provide pedagogical support to Roma children and other children experiencing particular academic difficulties;
· Roma class assistants;
· Roma mediators to liaise between teachers, schools and Roma families;
· materials in the mother tongues of Roma children.

Today there are not many Roma teachers and it is critical that their numbers increase. More could also be done to ensure that other staff with Roma backgrounds are recruited in schools. Furthermore, in certain Roma communities, it is crucial to raise the awareness of Roma parents, who themselves might not have had the opportunity to attend school, of the necessity and benefits of adequate education for their children. In addition, it is extremely important that schools establish contact and build relationships with Roma parents. As this has not worked well to date, greater efforts are necessary. The adult generation must also be welcomed and offered, belatedly, an opportunity for basic education – if they so wish.

Where segregated education still exists in one form or another, it must be replaced with regular integrated education and, where appropriate, banned through legislation. It is essential that desegregation be combined with the necessary support measures for children in order for them to integrate into mainstream classes. Special classes or curricula for Roma are sometimes presented as a means of overcoming language barriers or remedying the lack of pre-school attendance of Roma children. While it is necessary to respond to such challenges, the systematic placement of Roma children in classes which follow a simplified or a special Romani-language curriculum, while isolating them from other pupils, is an inappropriate response and needs to cease. Special classes, if and when needed, should never become a tool of segregation. The necessary resources must be provided for academic assistance and support to the most disadvantaged children so that this flagrant discrimination is halted.

Furthermore, the practice of improperly placing Roma children in special schools or classes for pupils with intellectual disabilities needs to cease immediately. Selection tests should differentiate between children with intellectual impairment and children whose knowledge required for school was hindered by their environment but are otherwise fully capable. Proper pedagogical and psychological counselling and assessment should take place prior to any placement of a child in a special class.

Access to adequate housing

Concerted and sustained efforts are required at local, national and pan-European level to end the housing crisis of Roma. The rights of Roma to live in adequate housing in accordance with international legal standards need to be guaranteed. All public utilities, including water, electricity, collection of refuse and maintenance of access roads need to be provided to Roma settlements. Furthermore, settlements that lack recognised tenure should be formalised and brought up to standards adequate to ensure the dignity of the inhabitants.

Forced evictions carried out in violation of human rights standards and procedural safeguards must be stopped. The consequence of these standards is that forced evictions can only be carried out in exceptional cases and in a reasonable manner. Everyone concerned must be able to access courts to review the legality of planned evictions before they are carried out – this requires the existence of both legal remedies and legal aid possibilities. Alternatives to evictions should be sought in genuine consultation with the people affected, while compensation and adequate resettlement have to be offered when forced evictions take place. These standards also apply to local authorities. That abusive decisions are sometimes taken at the local level does not absolve central government from responsibility under its international obligations. The state should exercise oversight and, if necessary, regulate local action. States should also bring their legal protection against forced evictions into line with international law, notably with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and of the European Committee of Social Rights. They are also encouraged to apply the Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-Based Evictions and Displacement prepared by the Special Rapporteur under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council2.

In countries where there is a migrant Traveller population, there should be a statutory obligation on local authorities to provide short and long-term caravan sites, that meet basic standards of decency. Local authorities should receive financial assistance for constructing or laying out those sites. Furthermore, the housing of Travellers should not be approached through the unique lens of ‘halting sites’, but possibilities for Travellers to live on private land in caravans must be included in urban planning and made possible in practice.

Access to employment

Measures are necessary to combat the discrimination that Roma face in access to employment. This can be done through effective anti-discrimination legislation, the identification and removal of discriminatory barriers (such as regulations that disproportionately affect Roma businesses) and targeted financial help. Funds could be allocated to developing programmes and various types of assistance that encourage the creation of enterprises, the recruitment of Roma in enterprises or administrative departments, or devising specific training programmes.

There is also a pressing need to increase the number and improve the quality of public vocational training programmes for Roma. Furthermore, measures to facilitate access to loans by Roma are needed, for example by making provisions for direct financial assistance and/or providing partial government guarantees for loans contracted between Roma enterprises and banking institutions. Consideration might also be given to granting tax breaks for entrepreneurs who employ Roma.

Police harassment and abuse of Roma

Firm action needs to be taken to put an end to all forms of police violence and abuse directed towards Roma, including unwarranted police raids, disproportionate use of physical force during questioning, insults, beatings, and disproportionate use of firearms. All such actions need to be effectively investigated and appropriately proscribed, in full compliance with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Where police actions are of a criminal nature, they need to be fully investigated, prosecuted, and punished. It must be ensured that investigations are conducted by independent and impartial bodies. In addition, it is important that high level police officials make it clear that discriminatory and abusive actions will not be tolerated. Police should be provided with training in non-discriminatory policing and policing in a diverse society. Members of Roma communities should be recruited into the police.

Roma should not be subjected to any kind of policing that would differ from that encountered by the general population.

Racial violence

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that: “Racial violence is a particular affront to human dignity and, in view of its perilous consequences, requires from the authorities special vigilance and a vigorous reaction.”3 Political leaders need to unequivocally and publicly condemn all forms of violence targeting Roma. Racial violence should be designated as a criminal offence so as to strengthen the relevant legal provisions and deliver a clear message to perpetrators. Racial motivation should also be considered as an aggravating circumstance in the sentencing of criminal offences. In practice, allegations of racial violence towards Roma must be thoroughly and systematically investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted. Furthermore, proactive steps should be taken to encourage victims to report more incidents.

Hate speech and anti-Gypsyism

It is absolutely essential to combat anti-Gypsyism.

Without changes in attitudes within the majority population, all programmes aimed at improving the situation of the Roma people are bound to fail. It is therefore important to raise public awareness about Roma history and the diversity of their identities. Knowledge about the cruelties and the genocide that Roma have suffered should also be disseminated.4 Such information should be included in the school curriculum.

There is a close link between hate crimes and hate speech. Rhetoric from some politicians and xenophobic media has revived age-old stereotypes about the Roma and this in turn has “legitimised” actions, sometimes violent, against Roma individuals. Media professionals should exercise particular vigilance to avoid promoting negative stereotypes about Roma and instead provide coverage that is balanced, impartial and promotes an atmosphere of appreciation of diversity.

Hate speech and the propagation of negative stereotypes about Roma must be stopped. It is crucial that leading politicians and other opinion makers avoid anti-Roma rhetoric and, instead, stand up for the principles of non-discrimination, tolerance and respect for people from another background. Possible ways to promote this could be through reconciliation processes and apologies concerning the exclusion and persecution the Roma people have suffered.

KEY RECOMMENDATIONSCouncil of Europe member states should adopt comprehensive, coherent and adequately resourced strategies to improve the situation of Roma. These need to include positive measures and to tackle discrimination and anti-Gypsyism. States also need to firmly anchor change through adopting and fully implementing comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and laws against racially motivated violence and hate speech.Roma must be empowered as key partners in the implementation of their rights and must be allowed to take an active part in the administration of public affairs. Political participation, voter registration and civic education should be promoted, and mechanisms for equal, direct and open consultation with Roma representatives and communities should be established at European, national and local levels.

Member states must take steps to put an end to the problem of de iure or de facto statelessness still affecting many Roma.

Authorities must take urgent steps to provide basic documents, as well as effective access to health care and social security, to Roma who lack them. Ensuring access for Roma to legal aid is one of the key measures in this context.

The education of Roma children should be inclusive and desegregated; this entails taking steps to increase the attendance of Roma children in mainstream schools and to prevent dropping out. Particular attention should be paid to promoting the education of Roma girls. Pre-school education should be encouraged and barriers to school attendance must be eliminated. Furthermore a range of positive measures are needed, providing additional support and assistance to Roma and teachers and improving mutual communication.

Authorities must guarantee the rights of Roma to live with dignity in adequate housing, including the provision of all public utilities. Roma settlements lacking recognised tenure should be formalised, and forced evictions carried out in violation of human rights standards and procedural safeguards must be stopped.

Sufficient short and long-term caravan sites in line with basic standards of decency should be provided for Travellers as well as other housing possibilities enabling them to live on private land in caravans.

Access to employment should be facilitated through effective anti-discrimination legislation, the identification and removal of discriminatory barriers and targeted financial help, including tax breaks. It is also important to further develop vocational training.

States must take firm action against all forms of police violence and abuse directed towards Roma, through adequate investigations and sanctions. Police training should be oriented towards non-discriminatory policing and members of Roma communities should be recruited into the police.

Vigorous measures are needed to combat racially-motivated violence against Roma, including unequivocal condemnation by political leaders, penalising such violence, systematically investigating and prosecuting all offences, and encouraging victims to report incidents.

Sustained efforts are needed to eliminate negative stereotyping of Roma from political discourse and the media. A message of non-discrimination, tolerance and respect for people from another background should be promoted. It is also essential to raise public awareness about Roma history and the diversity of their identities, as well as the persecutions and genocide that they have suffered.

1 . C. Cahn, E. Guild, Study on Recent Migration of Roma in Europe, commissioned by OSCE HCNM and CommHR, 10/12/2008,http://www.coe.int/t/commissioner/Activities/themes/RomaMigration_2009_en.pdf.

2 . Annex 1 of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, A/HRC/4/18

3 . Nachova and others v. Bulgaria, Grand Chamber (6 July 2005).

4 . The Council of Europe Factsheets on Roma History are an excellent tool that may be used in this domain.

All this information was found on


Also a full report on Human Rights of Roma and Travellers in Europe can be found here