Note from the Executive Director
The fight for Roma Rights is at a crossroads. Over the last decade we’ve seen a widening gap between Romani communities and mainstream society. Throughout Europe we’ve seen an increase in violent attacks and hate speech against Roma. We see ongoing forced evictions and restrictions on freedom of movement. And we see Romani children segregated into special schools, while their parents often live in poverty, unable to get a job or access healthcare. These are challenging times: the far right is still on the rise and large parts of the media pander to the worst fears about minorities. Discrimination against Roma is corrosive. It doesn’t just damage Romani communities, it damages the whole society.
Meanwhile, Governments have produced any number of strategies, policies and action plans. They’ve adopted laws on anti-discrimination. But none of this has translated into a tangible difference for Romani people. The most recent policy is the European Commission’s framework on National Roma Integration Strategies. Although it is potentially a positive step, the Commission itself acknowledges there haven’t been enough improvements on the ground for Roma and that Member States need to ensure that anti-discrimination legislation is effectively enforced in their territories.
That’s why our work at the European Roma Rights Centre is so important. We’re advocating for Roma Rights every single day. We’re pushing States to reform their legislation and policy. We’re highlighting and fighting racism and discrimination. Our strategic litigation seeks to embed human rights in national and international law and policy. Our cases have brought landmark decisions at the European Court of Human Rights. Working with partners, we continue to put pressure on national governments to respond and make real changes on the ground. Meanwhile, our research aims to give policymakers the evidence base they need to implement changes and put law and policy into practise. And our human rights education programme seeks to empower Romani and non-Romani activists to take the fight to a local and national level. We provide internships, legal traineeships and various national and international training programmes for Romani and Traveller activists.
Before I joined the ERRC, I worked on Roma rights in Romania. After several years of fighting before the courts and other State bodies, with the team of lawyers at Romani CRISS we managed to make the State administration and ultimately the Romanian justice system acknowledge that discrimination against Roma is illegal. Subsequently, I worked with the national equality body. The decisions we made there were instrumental in changing education policy: segregated education for Roma is recognised as discriminatory and schools are bound to desegregate classes right now. I know that our path can be slow and difficult. But I also know that it is possible to make a change.
We don’t always have easy answers to the most difficult problems faced by Roma. But we continue to work because our vision is for a future where Romani children have access to quality mainstream education; where Roma families live in decent housing and have every chance to access the labour market. We want all Romani individuals to be accepted as full members of society as they fully deserve, and not be treated as second class citizens.
We fully believe in and commit to the fight for Roma Rights. We hope that you do too.