European Commission on Racism and Intolerance Reviews Spain
7 February 2004
On July 8, 2003, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) made public its second report on Spain under its country-by-country analysis of racism and intolerance in each of the member states of the Council of Europe. ECRI noted in its second report that the situation of Roma/Gypsies in Spain is of particular concern. ECRI found that "a large segment of the Roma/Gypsy population in Spain is still in a situation of - in many cases serious - marginalisation and exclusion from mainstream society. Roma/Gypsies suffer from societal prejudice and face disadvantage and discrimination in many areas of life, spanning from education to employment, housing and health. They are also sometimes victims of acts of violence." ECRI further noted:
"44. The Spanish authorities have stated that education is one of the fields to which, over the last few decades, they have devoted priority attention and resources. Positive results have been achieved, particularly in increasing school enrolment. However, ECRI notes that, in spite of initiatives taken, school drop-out rates and absenteeism are still very high among Roma/Gypsy children and concern approximately 70 percent of children over 14 and 90 percent of girls over 14. Difficulties have also been reported in Roma/Gypsy children's access to pre-school education. [...] The rate of adult illiteracy is still very high, and, although slowly increasing, the number of Roma/Gypsy university students is still extremely limited. ECRI considers that these areas should be addressed as a matter of priority by the Spanish authorities. [...] A further priority area to be tackled is the high concentration of Roma/Gypsy children in certain schools - this concerns State schools as very few Roma/Gypsy children attend State-funded (colegios concertados) or privately-funded private schools.
"45. Lack of education and training impact negatively on employment opportunities for the members of the Roma/Gypsy communities. These opportunities are further reduced by widespread prejudice and by discrimination on the part of potential employers. There is research indicating that discrimination at point of recruitment and in the workplace is particularly severe vis-á-vis Roma/Gypsy women. ECRI notes that the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion (2001-2003) identifies Roma/Gypsies as a group deserving specific attention. [...] It [ECRI] emphasises, however, the urgent need to address the issue of labour discrimination, notably through research, awareness-raising initiatives and properly-implemented legislative measures.
"46. Although the housing situation of the members of the Roma/Gypsy population varies widely, a significant part of this population lives in sub-standard housing and the vast majority of the inhabitants of shanty-towns are in fact Roma/Gypsies. Many of these areas are located around or within big cities and are affected by problems related to extremely unhealthy conditions, drugs and violence. The Spanish authorities have taken initiatives to eliminate shanty towns - housing represents one of the most important areas of the Roma Development Programme. Such initiatives have included transitional housing schemes, whereby tenants were offered temporary shelter until proper housing could be supplied. However, the effectiveness of many of these measures has been challenged, including in specific cases by the Ombudsman, and the concern has been expressed that, in some cases, these measures have perpetuated or even worsened situations of marginalisation. [...] ECRI furthermore notes that, although the number of complaints filed with the Ombudsman concerning Roma/Gypsies' access to housing has decreased, the Ombudsman has, in the past, intervened in cases of forced evictions of Roma/Gypsy families from the places of their residence. ECRI strongly urges the Spanish authorities to devote attention to this problem. ECRI furthermore emphasises the role played by discrimination in excluding Roma/Gypsies in practice from the private housing sector and urges the Spanish authorities to address this problem, including through properly-implemented legislative measures.
"47. The health situation of the members of the Roma/Gypsy communities also reflects their generally disadvantaged situation. Such disadvantage is linked to several factors such as poverty and unhealthy living conditions, but also reflects the inability of the health system to cater for the specific needs of these communities and, in some cases, prejudice on the part of those providing the service. Although there are no statistics on the health situation of this segment of the Spanish population at the national level, information collected at the local level indicates that infant mortality rates are significantly higher within these communities and that health conditions and life expectancy are considerably lower than the average. ECRI strongly urges the Spanish authorities to evaluate the initiatives currently undertaken in the field of health and to increase their efforts to facilitate Roma/Gypsies' access to health care.
"48. ECRI is also concerned at manifestations of racial violence, notably on the part of local communities, against the Roma/Gypsy population and urges the Spanish authorities to ensure a prompt and effective official response to any such actions.
"49. A matter of concern for the Roma/Gypsy communities in Spain is also the lack of a coherent legal and policy framework for the protection and the promotion of their culture, traditions and language, and the need for mechanisms to ensure meaningful participation of Roma/Gypsies in political and social structures. ECRI encourages the Spanish authorities to give serious consideration to these proposals."
The full text of the report is available at: www.coe.int.