Discrimination against Roma in Romania

07 November 2002

According to the Bucharest-based national daily newspaper Realitatae of June 1, 2002, on May 28, 2002, Mayor Dan Ioan Cărpuşor, of the eastern town of Roman in Neamţ County, together with local police and Romani leaders attempted to introduce "good Roma cards". Thecards would reportedly be issued to Roma exhibiting good behaviour. According to Realitatae, Roma not in possession of such cards would be prohibited from entering bars, restaurants and discos in Romania. The daily also reported that the cards were to be issued by the Roma Party (Partida Rromilor). As of August 28, 2002, the ERRC, in partnership with the Bucharest-based Romani organisation Aven amentza, was informed by Mr Florin Botonogu of the Neamţ Prefecture that not all Romani leaders had agreed to the issuing of such cards and no such cards had been issued. Mr Botonogu further informed the ERRC/Aven amentza that no such cards would be issued. As of October 24, 2002, the ERRC/Aven amentza was unaware that any such cards had been issued.

In other news, the electronic newsletter Divers reported on May 17, 2002, that, on May 14, 2002, at the Mayor's Office in Gura Văii in Bacău County in central eastern Romania, four hundred Roma protested for five hours with pitchforks and sticks after not being paid their social benefits from February onwards, despite having completed the necessary community work for the months of February, March, April and May 2002. In response to the protest, Mr Georgica Andreescu, the mayor of Gura Văii reportedly said that the Mayor's office had only received enough money for 55 percent of the payments. According to the article, Mr Andreescu also stated that the accountant had retired as of May 1, 2002, therefore there was no one in the office who could make the payment. The Bacău-based Romani organisation RomStar Bacău reported to the ERRC/Aven amentza that before the protest, in a bar and in the presence of witnesses, Mr Alexandru Aurel, a Romani man, was reportedly struck in the face by Mr Nelu Chelmuş, Deputy Mayor of Gura Văii, when he asked why he had not received his social benefits, despite meeting the requirements set out in law. Mr Ion Cozma, a Romani man, was also hit by Mr Chelmuş when he asked the same question. On October 10, 2002, during ERRC field research, representatives of RomStar Bacău stated that on May 17, 2002, the organisation met with Mr Andreescu and following the meeting, some of the Roma received partial payment of their social aid.

On October 11, 2002, the ERRC visited the Morii Street Romani settlement in which all Roma in Gura Văii live. All of the Roma with whom the ERRC spoke stated that they still performed the work required for the payment of social assistance. Some Roma in the settlement reported that they now received partial payments of their social aid but that the mayor kept a portion of the payments. Ms Maricela Mihai, a 46-year-old Romani woman, testified to the ERRC that she and her husband had received a portion of their social aid payment for the months since May 2002, but in September 2002, they had not received any money. Ms Lămâia Stănescu stated that she and her husband had received social aid payments for August and September, but that the amount they had received was only part of what they should receive according to the law, and that the amount was different both times. Ms Agripina Stănescu reported to the ERRC that she and her husband had received social aid payments in July, August and September, but that the amount received was different each month and not the full amount to which they were entitled.

Others reported that they had not received any portion of the payment. Ms Maricela Mihai reported that her 26-year-old daughter Maria Mihai and her husband, Mr Gelu Stănescu, had applied for social assistance shortly after the adoption of the Law on Guaranteeing Minimum Income in January 2002. According to Ms Mihai, Ms Maria Mihai and her husband were told that they did not qualify for the social aid because they owned a horse. The horse reportedly died in February 2002, less than one month after they originally applied, but Ms Mihai stated that her daughter and her husband had still not received a social aid payment at the time of the ERRC visit. Fifty-year-old Ms Virginia Stănescu reported that, at the time of the ERRC visit, she had not received a social aid payment, although her husband had. According to Ms Stănescu, her husband, Stănică, filed a complaint about the non-payment of social aid to Ms Stănescu with the Bacău Prefecture and the Mayor's Office of Gura Văii approximately three weeks prior to the ERRC visit, but had not received a response.

The ERRC met with Mr Andreescu on the day of its visit. Mr Andreescu told the ERRC that, when he sees a horse or a cart at someone's home, he "knows approximately how much money the family makes." According to Mr Andreescu, the local council decided that a person owning a horse and/or a cart can earn around 600,000 Romanian lei (approximately 18 euros) per month. Therefore, this amount is deducted every month from the social aid payments of persons in possession of such items: "Here, a man with a cart can earn up to 200,000 lei per day and if he doesn't do this, he is lazy and the state shouldn't pay for him anyway," stated Mr Andreescu "[...] How did they (Roma) live before the adoption of the Law? Now, suddenly they don't have any money?" Article 9 of the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, to which Romania is a signatory, states, "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance." Mr Andreescu showed the ERRC the files kept by the Mayor's Office on social assistance applicants. One hundred and nineteen files had been opened for applicants listed as Romani. According to Mr Andreescu, the last month that he had paid any social aid for was June 2002.

(Aven amentza, Divers, ERRC, RomStar Bacău, Realitatae)


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