Romani Children Win Discrimination Case After Being Denied Entry to a Public Swimming Pool in Romania

19 December 2022

Graphic of swimming pool with sign saying

By Maria Bogdan

The Aqua Fun Swimming Pool in Sibiu, Romania has been fined 10,000 lei (€2,030) by the National Council for Combating Discrimination for denying Romani children entrance to their pool because of their ethnicity. In a press release released on 16th November, the Council declared that the swimming pool had discriminated against the Romani children, who had brought a complaint to the Council with the support of the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and RomaJust.

The incident occurred on 1st July 2022.  A group of Romani children were visiting the swimming pool that day as part of a summer holiday program organized by the Asociatia Speranţă și Zâmbet (Hope and Smile Association). The organisation offers social services to disadvantaged Romani and non-Romani children and their families in Șura Mare and Cisnădie, and as part of their activities usually takes the children to the swimming pool of Sibiu or Cisnădie in the summer. Although the group consisted of 30 children and 15 adults, the organisers did not consider it necessary to call the swimming pool beforehand because they had no problems with entering there as a group in the previous years. 

When they arrived at the entrance, the staff told them that the swimming pool was reserved so they could not let them in. After other people were allowed to enter unhindered, the organisers from the association asked the staff again why they could not enter. The swimming pool staff said that they were acting on the direction of the company management.

The security guards responded instead with racist statements. They said that “the swimming pool is reserved for humans” when the president of the organisation, Mrs. Jenny Rasche, questioned the discriminatory measures at the scene. Mrs Rasche also spoke to the manager at the entrance, who explained that the reason he wouldn't let them in was that he believed that the group had left a mess a day before at the swimming pool.  Mrs. Rasche and the parents of the children explained to the manager that it was the first time their children had visited the swimming pool this year, but he refused to allow them entry.  He later said, in an interview to local media, that he no longer welcomes Roma at his swimming pool. Mrs. Rasche recorded two short videos of their treatment at the swimming pool, which can be seen on the social media channel of the local media outlet (here and here).

Public swimming pools have come to represent a flashpoint of racial discrimination for Roma in Europe. Similar to their symbolism in the public racialised consciousness of the United States, where Black-Americans have long found themselves literally left outside when public pools deny them and their children; here too in Europe, the swimming pool provides a clear point of exclusion for those who society labels as ‘Gypsies’.

Romani people have been denied entry to public swimming pools throughout Europe for decades. ERRC research from 2006 in North Macedonia highlighted numerous cases of denial throughout the country. Sixteen years later little has changed there, with high profile cases as recently as 2018 and 2022. Romani people have also notably been refused entry to swimming pools in Slovakia and Spain in recent years, as well as infamously in England where a list of Romani and Irish Traveller names was used in May 2022 to deny families access to an entire holiday park. The denial of Romani children to the swimming pool in Sibiu represents a continuation of a racist trend which is usually so common as to not even register publicly with news coverage in Romania. The case was brought to the attention of the ERRC by the local NGO, RomaJust, and legal representation was offered to the Romani families who were discriminated against by the pool.

After a discrimination decision was reached by the National Council for Combating Discrimination in November, the president of RomaJust, Eugen Ghita, expressed optimism that the decision would be a positive contribution to the advancement of Roma Rights in Romania. His optimism also came with an admonishment for those who might seek to discriminate against Roma: “We hope that this decision of the National Council for Combating Discrimination will serve as a warning in the future to all those who believe that discrimination remains unpunished.”



Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.


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