Roma Inclusion

Slovakia criticised for Roma segregation

A new re­port high­lights the con­tin­ued seg­re­ga­tion of Roma chil­dren in the Slo­vak pri­mary school sys­tem. Lit­tle progress has been made since the Com­mis­sion ini­ti­ated in­fringe­ment pro­ceed­ings against Slo­va­kia for breach of EU anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion leg­is­la­tion.

– In April 2015 the Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion ini­ti­ated in­fringe­ment pro­ceed­ings against Slo­va­kia for breach­ing EU anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion leg­is­la­tion. While the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still on­go­ing, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional and the Eu­ro­pean Roma Rights Cen­tre (ERRC) pub­lished a new re­port [PDF] on Wednes­day high­light­ing the lack of progress since the in­fringe­ment pro­ceed­ings were started.

The re­port shows con­tin­u­ing wide­spread dis­crim­i­na­tion against Roma chil­dren in the pri­mary school sys­tem in Slo­va­kia, and it high­lights that the lim­ited re­forms in­tro­duced in Slo­va­kia have done lit­tle to end the rou­tine prac­tice of plac­ing Roma chil­dren in sep­a­rate class­rooms or schools. ERRC Pres­i­dent Ðorđe Jo­vanović added that “al­most two years af­ter the Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion launched in­fringe­ment pro­ceed­ings against Slo­va­kia for dis­crim­i­na­tion and seg­re­ga­tion in ed­u­ca­tion, Ro­mani chil­dren re­main trapped in a vi­cious cy­cle of poverty, mar­gin­al­i­sa­tion and de­spair".

Dis­crim­i­na­tion is pri­mar­ily due to Roma chil­dren ac­tively be­ing seg­re­gated and placed in sep­a­rate Roma-only schools or classes, or non-Roma par­ents re­mov­ing their chil­dren from schools with larger num­ber of Roma pupils. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Slo­vak au­thor­i­ties are do­ing lit­tle to tackle this phe­nom­e­non la­belled “white flight”. Roma chil­dren are also fre­quently be­ing sent to spe­cial schools and classes for chil­dren with “men­tal dis­abil­i­ties”.

An­other con­tribut­ing fac­tor is that Roma chil­dren of­ten only speak Slo­vak as a sec­ondary lan­guage, and are af­forded lit­tle chance to learn the lan­guage, thereby hin­der­ing their op­por­tu­ni­ties to par­tic­i­pate in the wider Slo­vak-speak­ing so­ci­ety. Roma par­ents in­ter­viewed for the re­port said that chil­dren were of­ten in­structed to draw and paint dur­ing Slo­vak lan­guage classes.

John Dal­huisen, Eu­rope and Cen­tral Asia Di­rec­tor at Amnesty In­ter­na­tional high­lighted the long-term con­se­quences of the con­tin­u­ing seg­re­ga­tion: “the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in Slo­va­kia is stacked against Ro­mani chil­dren from the start, set­ting them on de­press­ingly nar­row tra­jec­tory that only serves to ex­ac­er­bate and per­pet­u­ate prej­u­dice and racism to­wards Roma”.

Slo­va­kia faces the prospect of se­vere fi­nan­cial penal­ties if the Com­mis­sion finds in its in­fringe­ment pro­ceed­ings that they have breached EU anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion leg­is­la­tion.

We are condemning a generation of Roma children to growing up in walled ghettos

Roma seg­re­ga­tion is fre­quent in Ro­ma­nia. In Baia Mare, a so­cial-hous­ing com­plex mostly in­hab­ited by Roma peo­ple is be­com­ing a walled-in ghetto. In Roșia, Roma chil­dren are sent to seg­re­gated schools. Both is al­legedly be­ing done for the well­be­ing of the chil­dren.

What western Europe can do for one of the most marginalised communities in the EU

The pres­ence of Roma peo­ple is a con­tested and di­vi­sive is­sue across Eu­rope, and of­ten­times lo­cal au­thor­i­ties make the prob­lem worse by de­stroy­ing camps and push­ing com­mu­ni­ties from one lo­ca­tion to an­other, thereby stig­ma­tis­ing and re­in­forc­ing neg­a­tive stereo­types.

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