What France and the EU should do for Roma integration

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The President and the Director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Chibo Onyeji and Michael Privot, send an open letter to EU Commissioner Viviane Reding and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault regarding the situation of the Roma in France.

"Dear Ms. Reding,

Dear Prime Minister,

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) welcomes the French government’s proposal to lift employment restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens in France and its willingness to put the issue on the EU Council’s agenda as a first step towards encouraging the inclusion of Roma in Europe.

However, these positive steps will be pointless unless:

  • Anti-Gypsyism and structural discrimination in the labour market – as well as in other areas such as education, housing, access to goods and services – are addressed. Indeed, opening up jobs for Roma from Romania and Bulgaria will not help if employers do not hire them as a result of widespread prejudice.
  • Forced evictions of Roma communities stop. As part of its obligations under international human rights law, France needs to ensure that nobody is forced into homelessness or made vulnerable to human rights violations as a result of evictions. Beyond human rights considerations, these evictions are also costly and counter-productive since many of the “returned” Roma, enticed with 300 euros, have left France only to return again. This is attributed to the poor conditions in which they live at home being far worse than the precarious conditions in French camps.
  • Actions are taken to tackle the systematic discrimination and extreme deprivation faced by Roma in Romania, Bulgaria, and other eastern European countries. The European Union needs to put pressure on these countries’ governments to respect anti-discrimination laws and to introduce measures to ensure their Roma communities are included in society.

We call on the European Commission and on European Heads of State and Government to make real the commitment to the social inclusion of Roma communities in Europe.

A groundbreaking agreement was achieved last year with the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies. But little has been achieved since then.

The national strategies submitted by EU member states to the European Commission in March show a clear lack of political will to confront the continued rise of anti-Gypsyism in Europe.

We need to make discrimination and racism against the Roma a priority to make a real difference in the lives of Roma. Moreover, involving and empowering Roma would be a crucial step for achieving positive change.

We call upon you to take action based on the following concrete recommendations:

  • The EU institutions should react publicly against any manifestations of racism targeting the Roma and hold Member States accountable whenever the rights of Roma are under attack.
  • The European Commission and EU Member States should support awareness raising campaigns and actions that tackle prejudice and discrimination towards the Roma.
  • If evictions must take place, authorities should consult with residents and give them adequate notice. They should also be offered alternative decent accommodation.
  • EU member states and local authorities should encourage positive action measures to foster Roma inclusion in employment and education.
  • The EU institutions and Member States should directly involve Roma in policy development and implementation on issues that impact them, through a meaningful dialogue between Roma people and organisations, local authorities, Member States, and European institutions.

Yours sincerely,

Chibo Onyeji, President of ENAR, and Michael Privot, Director of ENAR"