ERRC: UN Children’s Rights Committee on Roma Rights in Hungary

European Roma Rights Centre Urges Hungarian Government to Act on Key Concerns Identified by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

Budapest. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) today welcomed the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on Hungary’s compliance with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, one of the central instruments of international human rights law.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child convened in January to review Hungary’s second periodic report on measures to implement the Convention.

The Committee praised progress achieved by Hungary, citing for example numerous amendments to the Child Protection Act; the adoption of the Act on Equal Treatment and the Promotion of Equal Opportunities in 2003, prohibiting both direct and indirect discrimination; independent monitoring by the Parliamentary Commissioners for Civil Rights and Ethnic and National Minorities, in particular the consideration given to child rights issues and cases; the prohibition of corporal punishment in the home by amendment of the Act on the Protection of Children in 2004; and the expanded programmes for the social inclusion of Romani children.
The Committee was however concerned about the situation of Romani children, and brought recommendations in a number of areas. With respect to issues on which the European Roma Rights Centre submitted documentation, the Committee took the following positions:
“[T]he Committee is concerned that discriminatory and xenophobic attitudes, in particular towards the Roma population, remain prevalent and that especially Roma children suffer from stigmatisation, exclusion and socio-economic disparities, notably related to housing, unemployment, access to health services, adoption and educational facilities because of their ethnic status.”
On this basis, the Committee recommended that the government of Hungary: 

  • Initiates campaigns to change widespread discriminatory behaviour of excluding members of the Roma community from services that have to be accessible to all citizens regardless of their ethnicity or any other status;
  • Strengthen and expand programmes that assist disadvantaged children whose development was impeded by poor socio-economic conditions during young childhood;
  • Systematically abolish all institutional settings which segregate children based on discriminatory grounds;

and expeditiously terminate the practice of withdrawing public responsibility for the education of certain children by assigning them “private” student status.
The Committee further recommended that the Hungarian government continue to take measures towards social integration of minority children and that it combat marginalization and stigmatization of Roma children.

Furthermore, the Committee stated that additional measures are needed to ensure the full enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the Convention by Roma children, in particular as to their access to education and adequate standard of living.

The Committee expressed concerns about the considerable overrepresentation of Romani children among children in child care institutions and held that not enough efforts are made to return children to their families as soon as possible. The Committee is also concerned by reports on the extremely low quality of many institutions and by the fact that children previously in state care subsequently are overrepresented among the homeless. The Committee therefore urged that institutionalisation be used only as a measure of last resort, taking into account the best interests of the child. In this regard the State party should provide maximum support possible for the work of child representatives and child protection officers with a view to prevent and reduce placements in institutions. The Committee moreover recommended that the State Party undertake further preventive efforts to address root causes of poverty and to avoid that poor socio-economic conditions result in the separation of children from their parents.

As regards adoption, the Committee expressed concerns over the high number of Romani children who are in institutions, while some of them might benefit from adoption and recommended that the central regulating authority be provided with sufficient financial and human resources in order to comply with its mandate. The Committee suggested that particular attention should be paid to the right of all children to know their origins. The Committee urged Hungary to identify those children who could benefit from adoption and initiate the adoption process, taking into consideration the cultural background of these children in accordance with article 20 of the Convention.

The Committee, while recognising certain efforts to reduce segregated education, further expressed concern that many Romani children are still arbitrarily placed in special institutions or classes. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that the quality of schools suffers from regional disparities and that access to preschools is reportedly limited in regions where poverty is high and the Romani population is dominant. Therefore, the Committee recommended that particular attention should be paid to abolishing the segregation in schools which continues to disadvantage Romani children, and that an obligatory component of human rights education be introduced in the curriculum as it may play a central role in the endeavours to change discriminatory attitudes.

On the issue of administration of juvenile justice, the Committee stated that the overrepresentation of Romani children within the administration of juvenile justice remains a serious concern and recommended that Hungary ensure that the principle of non-discrimination is strictly applied, in particular with regards to children of vulnerable groups such as Roma.

ERRC urges Hungarian authorities to implement the Committee's recommendations in full.

The full text: Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding Observations on Hungary

The ERRC provided written comments to the Committee in the run-up to its review of Hungary’s compliance with the children’s rights Convention.

For further information, please contact ERRC Mandate and Communications Officer Rita Izsak: rita.izsak@errc.org.

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