– 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.