Roma in Europe

The Roma, estimated at between 10 and 12 million people, is the largest ethnic minority in Europe. The majority of the population lives in East-Europe, at the same time many of them left their own country to immigrate to Western-Europe hoping for a better life. Their plight is one of the biggest social problems of the continent and there has not been much progress over the years.

These people have been suffering profound discrimination, exclusion and prejudices for centuries. They are targets of racially motivated violence and hate speech; they have discrimination in the field of education, housing, health care and job market. Nowadays, in these hard times of economic crises this “anti-Gypsy” behavior is more frequent, therefore, Roma community is used as a scapegoat. They were attacked by the rest of citizens several times recently. For example, in Italy, Roma campsites have been burnt down; in Slovakia, Roma children have been sadistically ill-treated and humiliated by members of the security forces; in Serbia, entire Roma families have been made homeless following summary evictions; in the  Czech  Republic,  members  of  a  Roma  family  have  been  seriously  injured  in  a  house  set  on  fire  by Molotov cocktails. Sadly, the list goes on.

Everybody agrees that much more needs to be done to help Europe’s Roma community effectively and reduce the gap between Roma and non-Roma people; however, the governments of the European Union have achieved little in integrating them to the society. The willingness to do something about the situation is low. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) conducted a survey in 84,000 households in 11 countries across Europe. According to their latest report only 15% of young Roma adults surveyed finish upper-secondary general or vocational education. Because of the low level of education and discrimination in the job market only less than 30% of Roma surveyed are in paid employment. Their living conditions in no way meets the European standards, with about 45% of them living in households lacking at least one of the following: an indoor kitchen, toilet, shower, or electricity.

Policymakers know that national strategies need to be implemented. We have a great deal of researchers, studies and commendation. Nevertheless, most of the planned actions remain merely on paper so far; too much theory without practical evaluation and real intervention won’t help. According to the subject-matter experts say the first step of the integration starts with education. Governments should encourage the school participation and school completion of Roma children. To provide more training and education to improve the skills of Roma jobseekers is also very important. The biggest part of these communities lives under the European standards and inhuman living conditions. For this reason, member states are working on improving their access to health care and housing needs. The representation of Roma in state institutions, as well as their active and co-ordinated participation in the decision-making process is also a good way to work out a more efficient integration program.

Governments have to do something against the anti-gypsyism as well. European citizens have to see that everybody can benefit from helping our fellow-being and the integration of the Roma community.


By  Crystal Blankenbaker, Irina Czakó, Ksenia Solovyova


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