UN Committee Urges Hungary to Combat Discrimination and Social Exclusion of Roma

31 May 2007

Various Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Concerns Detailed

Budapest, Geneva. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) today welcomed the Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) on Hungary's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The comments follow the Committee's review of Hungary at its 38th session in May.

On a positive note, the Committee noted the adoption of the Act on Equal Treatment and the Promotion of Equal Opportunities and the establishment of the Equal Treatment Authority as well as the Roma Integration Decade Programme Strategy Plan for the period 2007 to 2015.

Among the principal subjects of concern, the Committee noted that the rights recognized in the Covenant are not directly applicable in the Hungarian courts; that the shared burden of proof under the Equal Treatment Act, requiring the victim merely to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, whereupon the burden of proof shifts to the alleged discriminator, is reportedly rarely applied by the courts; and that the low level of resources provided to the Equal Treatment Authority since its inception and the recent reduction in its funding and staff may adversely affect its capacity to deal with an increasing caseload.

The Committee also elaborated concerns with regard to access of the Roma minority in Hungary to social and economic rights. The Committee noted, among others, discrimination against Roma in the labour market; lack of an adequate safety net for disadvantaged individuals and families such as Roma; inadequate housing conditions of Roma, increasing forced evictions and discriminatory barriers for Roma to access social housing; denial of access to health services to Roma, segregation in hospital facilities and inferior quality of health services provided to Roma; and high number of Roma children segregated in separate schools and classes.

The Committee recommended that the State party:

"…intensify its efforts to reduce Roma unemployment through specifically targeted measures, including by enhancing professional training and sustainable employment opportunities in communities with significant Roma populations and increasing the number of Roma in the central and local governments";

"… ensure the strict application of anti-discrimination legislation by the courts, local governments and labour offices";

"… take more effective measures to encourage the private sector to provide adequate employment opportunities for the Roma";

"…collect disaggregated data on unemployment and informal economy participation of Roma, set specific benchmarks to reduce the employment gap between Roma and non-Roma, and include such data, as well as detailed information on the results of the measures taken to improve employment opportunities for Roma, in its next periodic report";

"… adopt and implement remedial measures relating to infrastructure in Roma settlements, extend the application of the Roma Housing and Social Integration Programme to all communities concerned, effectively enforce anti-discrimination legislation in the housing sector, refrain from distributing social housing through public auction at high prices; and increase the availability of social housing, in particular for the Roma";

"… ensure that the rights of affected individuals, including children, are safeguarded and that alternative housing is provided whenever forced evictions take place, in line with the Committee's general comment No. 7 (1997), and to include disaggregated data on the extent of homelessness, the number of forced evictions and arrangements for alternative housing in its next periodic report";

"… strengthen preventive health care services and improve public services, such as clean water, sewerage, waste disposal and sanitation, particularly in Roma communities, and increase its efforts to address poor nutrition, chronic stress and other factors contributing to the low life expectancy of Roma";

"… intensify anti-discrimination campaigns and training of public and private health care providers";

"… take effective measures to end inter- and intra-school segregation of Roma children and to ensure that segregated pupils are mainstreamed into the regular school system without delay; to enforce the prohibition of segregation under the Equal Treatment Act and of limitations under the Education Act on free school choice and on the proportion of severely disadvantaged children per school";

"…provide effective incentives for integrated education; and to ensure that every application for private student status is reviewed by an independent child protection expert";

"… provide disaggregated data on enrolment, attendance and dropout rates of Roma at all levels of education, as well as on the extent and the forms of segregation, in its next periodic report";

"…include a specific section in its next periodic report on the results of the measures taken to combat discrimination and enhance respect, protection and fulfilment of economic, social and cultural rights of the Roma under each of the Covenant rights" and

"… include disaggregated data on an annual basis, as well as specific benchmarks, to enable an adequate monitoring and evaluation of the progress made in its next periodic report".

In the run-up to the Committee's review, the ERRC submitted a parallel report, highlighting concerns in all areas noted above. The full report is available on the ERRC's website in English.

The ERRC, COHRE and the Pakiv European Roma Fund attended the Committee hearing in May 2007 and provided Committee members with data and other information on Roma, housing rights and other issues of relevance to Committee review.

The full text of the CESCR Concluding Observations on Hungary is available at:

For additional information, please contact:

Savelina Danova, Research and Policy Coordinator, European Roma Rights Centre,
Ph. +36.1.413 22 00, savelina.danova@errc.org.

Claude Cahn, Head of Advocacy Unit, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions,
Ph. +41. 22.734 10 28, claudecahn@cohre.org


Challenge discrimination, promote equality


Receive our public announcements Receive our Roma Rights Journal


The latest Roma Rights news and content online

join us

Find out how you can join or support our activities