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Czech Republic must put an end to Unlawful Segregation of Romani Children

12 November 2014

Budapest, Prague, 12 November 2014: A statement of Amnesty International, European Roma Rights Centre, Open Society Fund Prague, Open Society Justice Initiative, League of Human Rights, IQ Roma Servis, Life Together and SLOVO 21. 

Tomorrow marks seven years since the European Court of Human Rights found the Czech Republic to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights with respect to unlawful discrimination of Romani pupils in the Czech education system. Seven years on, these violations of the right to education and discrimination have not been addressed and Roma pupils continue to experience segregated education across the country. On 25 September, in a response to the failure to address this ongoing unlawful situation with respect to EU anti-discrimination law, the European Commission launched infringement proceedings under the Race Equality Directive against the Czech Republic which could result in significant financial sanctions.

The case of  D.H. and Others vs the Czech Republic involved a group of young Roma people from Ostrava who were enrolled in a special elementary school, a school for children with ‘mild mental disabilities’. The European Court ruled that placement of Romani children in the schools for pupils with mild mental disabilities amounted to unlawful discrimination. Yet, according to the latest findings of the Czech School Inspectorate and the Public Defender of Rights, Romani children still account for at least one-third of all pupils in practical (formerly named special) schools. However, we are concerned that the methodology behind this data is problematic and does not fully reflect the scope of the problem.

Furthermore, many Romani children are also educated separately from their peers in the mainstream elementary schools. In many towns and villages there are schools known as "Roma schools", which are made up almost exclusively of Roma pupils while a few hundred metres away there are usually other schools which are attended by pupils the vast majority of whom are non-Roma. "Roma schools" are often less demanding and focus on practical skills at the expense of the basic academic knowledge and ability which are necessary to proceed to the next level of secondary education. Although some directors attempt to provide quality education for both Romani and non-Romani children at the same school, they often face insurmountable problems due to lack of resources and support from the government and local authority

This situation is in breach of not just the Czech anti-discrimination legislation, but also international human rights and EU law. We are aware of the ongoing reform of the Czech School Act which aim at the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs into mainstream schools. However, this reform fails to address the existence of ethnically segregated schools – a critical omission which will continue to place the Czech Republic in breach of its legal obligations.

We, civil society organisations that work with schools, parents and pupils, therefore call on the Czech government to take the infringement proceedings as an opportunity to effectively remedy the continuing unlawful situation and end the racial discrimination of Romani children within the country’s education system.

This press release is also available in Czech.

For more information, contact:

Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre
Tel. +36.30.500.1324 

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ERRC submission to UN HRC on Hungary (February 2018)

14 February 2018

Written Comments of the European Roma Rights Centre concerning Hungary to the UN Human Rights Committee for consideration at its 122nd session (12 Narch - 6 April 2018).

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The Fragility of Professional Competence: A Preliminary Account of Child Protection Practice with Romani and Traveller Children in England

24 January 2018

Romani and Traveller children in England are much more likely to be taken into state care than the majority population, and the numbers are rising. Between 2009 and 2016 the number of Irish Travellers in care has risen by 400% and the number of Romani children has risen 933%. The increases are not consistent with national trends, and when compared to population data, suggest that Romani and Traveller children living in the UK could be 3 times more likely be taken into public care than any other child. 

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Families Divided: Romani and Egyptian Children in Albanian Institutions

21 November 2017

There’s a high percentage of Romani and Egyptian children in children’s homes in Albania – a disproportionate number. These children are often put into institutions because of poverty, and then find it impossible ever to return to their families. Because of centuries of discrimination Roma and Egyptians in Albania are less likely to live in adequate housing, less likely to be employed and more likely to feel the effects of extreme poverty.

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