Roma 'face same inequalities in west Europe as in east'

A woman enters a Roma camp outside Paris (file pic from 2007) Roma people in Western Europe did not always share their neighbours' better standard of living

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Roma (or Gypsy) communities in Western Europe often face similar levels of discrimination as their counterparts in Eastern Europe, according to a new report by the EU and UN.

The report said the situation of the Roma is on average worse than their non-Roma neighbours when it comes to jobs, education, housing and health.

The survey interviewed 22,203 Roma and their non-Roma neighbours.

Those surveyed resided in 11 EU countries with large Roma populations.

'Shocking'

Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, from the EU Agency on Fundamental Rights (FRA), which co-authored the report, says that Roma in countries like France, Italy and Spain share a common characteristic with Roma communities in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia - in that they were worse off than the majority non-Roma.

"That is precisely what we find most shocking. We would have expected to find significant differences, but from the responses of the Roma people themselves and their neighbours, we see few differences.

"One would have expected to see that their situation is far better in countries that have better conditions of life for their general population."

The report, which interviewed subjects in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain, was co-authored by the UN Development Programme.

Among its findings were:

  • only 15% of young Roma adults surveyed had completed upper-secondary general or vocational education, compared with more than 70% of the majority population living nearby
  • on average, less than 30% of Roma surveyed were in paid employment
  • about 45% of the Roma surveyed lived in households lacking at least one of the following: an indoor kitchen, toilet, shower or bath, or electricity
  • on average, about 40% of Roma surveyed lived in households where somebody went to bed hungry at least once in the last month because they could not afford to buy food.

The report said "swift, effective action" particularly in the field of education was needed to improve the situation.

FRA director Morten Kjaerum said education would "equip young Roma with the skills they need to escape the vicious cycle of discrimination, exclusion and poverty".

"The renewed Roma integration, however, will only bring sustainable results if [governments] engage with the local communities, Roma and non-Roma, building trust, developing social cohesion, and combating prejudice and discrimination," he said.

The findings are intended to be used to inform European policymakers on Roma.

FRA estimates that there are 10-12 million Roma in Europe.

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