Brussels, 27 February 2012 – “In many European countries Roma and Travellers are still denied basic human rights and suffer blatant racism. They remain far behind others in education, employment, access to decent housing and health. Their average life span is shorter and infant mortality rates are higher compared to other groups”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, releasing today the report “Human rights of Roma and Travellers in Europe”.
The report is the first comprehensive overview of the human rights situation of Roma and Travellers in all 47 member states of the Council of Europe. The Roma and related minority communities constitute Europe’s largest and most vulnerable minority.
It is shown that anti-Gypsyism continues to be widespread. Public leaders, media, and extremist groups who are active on the Internet have openly singled out Roma and Travellers for hate speech. In some cases, these words have been understood as encouraging violent action.
“This feeds the cycle of disadvantage, exclusion, segregation and marginalisation. Elected politicians must lead by example by respecting and promoting human rights for everyone.”
The report focuses on specific themes, such as anti-Gypsyism; racially motivated violence; conduct of law enforcement and judicial authorities; forced sterilisations, removal of children from the care of their biological parents; economic and social rights; statelessness, and freedom of movement. The report also highlights the importance of increasing the participation of Roma and Travellers in public life and decision-making processes.
“The problem of statelessness and lack of personal documentation for thousands of Roma in Europe is one of the issues which must be urgently addressed with determination, as these persons are deprived of basic rights such as education, healthcare, social assistance and the right to vote.”
A number of concrete steps to be taken by governments are mentioned in the report, including providing targeted training to the police to prevent misconduct; desegregating schools and improving the quality of education received by Roma and Traveller children. The Commissioner also recommends that truth commissions be created – ideally as a Europe-wide undertaking – to establish the historical facts concerning the atrocities committed against the Roma people.
“I hope the report will encourage a constructive discussion about policies towards Roma and Travellers in Europe, focusing on what must be done in order to put an end to the discrimination and marginalisation they suffer and to foster their social inclusion.”
Source: Council of Europe