UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Concerned about the Situation of Romani Children in Hungary
On 3 February 2006, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released its Concluding Observations 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 in the area of children's rights citing numerous examples. 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: "The 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 recommended that the Hungarian government continue measures towards social integration of minority children, emphasizing that additional measures are needed to ensure the full enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the Convention by Roma children, particularly with respect to their access to education and adequate standard of living.
The Committee expressed concerns about the overrepresentation of Romani children in child care institutions and reports of poor conditions in these institutions, noting that not enough efforts have been made to return children to their families in a timely manner. The fact that children in state care are subsequently overrepresented among the homeless was also raised as a serious concern by the Committee in its Concluding Observations. In the view of the Committee, institutionalisation should be only a measure of last resort, taking into account the best interests of the child, and the State should provide maximum support for child protection services and undertake further preventative efforts to address the root causes of poverty, with a view to prevent and reduce placements in institutions and separation of children from parents.
Regarding Romani children in institutions, while some of them might benefit from adoption, the Committee noted that the central regulating authority should be provided with sufficient financial and human resources in order to comply with its mandate. The Committee suggested that particular attention be paid to the right of children to know their origins. The Committee urged Hungary to identify children who might 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.
While recognising certain efforts to reduce segregated education, the Committee expressed concern over the many Romani children that are still arbitrarily placed in special institutions or classes, the poor quality of schools resulting from regional disparities, and the limited access to preschools in regions where poverty is high and the Romani community is dominant. With a view to ending these disadvantages suffered by Romani children, the Committee recommended particular attention be paid to abolishing segregation in schools and introducing obligatory human rights education components in curriculum.
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. 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.
The ERRC now 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.