European Commission against Racism and Intolerance Issues Third Report of Switzerland

28 May 2004

On January 27, 2004, the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) made public its Third Report on Switzerland, which included a section on Jenisch, Sinti and Roma. Jenisch is the preferred appellation of a group that has suffered similar treatment as other Romani/Gypsy groups. Sinti is the preferred appellation of a group commonly perceived as Romani by non-Roma whose language is a dialect of Romani influenced by German, but who reject the terms "Roma" and "Gypsy". ECRI's concerns and recommendations for the Swiss government follow:

"45. A new federal law on itinerant trade came into force on 1 January 2003, replacing and harmonising the numerous different regulations existing at cantonal level. The situation for travellers is now improved in that they can obtain a five year trade permit which is valid for all cantons, rather than having to apply for a new permit in each canton.

46. The provision of sufficient permanent and transit stopping places for travellers remains a problem, in a context where the communities are reporting an increasing interest on the part of young people in continuing the traditional way of life. It is also commented by representatives of the communities involved that the new system of trade permits, while positive, is also likely to increase the numbers of travellers from other countries coming into Switzerland, thus exacerbating the problem of lack of stopping places.

47. Although some cantons have constructed sites in recent years, other cantons or communes have not given planning permission for sites to be built; in many cases, even if the political will to create sites is present, the local population votes against the plans. The current lack of sites means that travellers are often forced to stop without permission, in areas without any sanitation facilities. The Foundation "Protecting the future of Swiss Travellers" has estimated that 30 extra permanent sites and 30 extra transit sites would be necessary to meet the demand: the Foundation itself is trying to promote the creation of sites and to influence zone planning in order to ensure that the needs of travellers are specifically taken into account.

48. The situation as regards schooling for children of travelling families seems to have improved in recent years, with more schools accepting that children attend classes during the winter and work by correspondence from March to October. Such arrangements are however made on an individual "good-will" basis, with no obligation on schools to accept the system. There is practically no teaching of the Jenisch, Sinti or Romany languages within the school system. Beyond the compulsory school level, it is reported that young travellers do face difficulties in obtaining apprenticeships due to prejudices on the part of potential employers.

49. ECRI recommends that the authorities take further steps to ensure that sufficient permanent and transit sites be provided across Switzerland for members of the travelling communities. In particular, it is important that the needs of this population are taken into account during the planning stage of zone development, respecting the principle that developments should not lead to the separation of travellers from the majority population through the creation of "ghetto" areas.

50. ECRI feels that further improvements could be made to ensure that all children from travelling families are guaranteed a high-quality education. For example, the provision of teachers who could visit travelling children to support their education during the summer months might be considered. Ways of overcoming barriers to the further education and training of young travellers, including their access to apprenticeships, should also be examined."

The full text of ECRI's Third Report on Switzerland is available on the Internet at:


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