Another year has gone by and the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) has once again drawn up its report on Discrimination and the Roma Community, the main object of which is to inform the Government and the society in general and to raise awareness and denounce the everyday discrimination faced by the Roma community by presenting these cases which bear witness to this violation of the fundamental right of equality. This publication also gives voice to the victims of discrimination who need to be defended and supported with a view to seeking solutions to this social problem and to contributing to the creation of a fairer society.
One of the FSG’s main priorities is to promote equal treatment and combat ethnic discrimination given that discrimination is a violation of a fundamental right forming part of the regulatory framework governing such issues (especially Article 14 of the Spanish Constitution and Directive 2000/43/EC) and is an affront to personal dignity. It is also one of the main barriers standing in the way to achieving the social inclusion of the Roma community. The FSG’s Area of Equality has been working on this problem for over 10 years and continues to develop a number of initiatives to combat discrimination against the Roma community:
- Actions to assist victims of discrimination, an area strengthened in 2010 and 2011 upon joining the Network of Centres providing assistance to victims of discrimination of the Council for the Promotion of Equal Treatment and non-discrimination of persons for reason of racial or ethnic origin which was inactive in 2012 but which we hope will reinitiate activity again in 2013.
- Technical assistance and training of key players in the fight against discrimination: mostly technical personnel and the heads of administrations and social organisations, jurists, police and the media.
- Promotion of policies supporting the advancement of equal treatment by monitoring anti-discrimination legislation and its everyday enforcement.
- Social awareness-raising actions through the dissemination of information related with the fight against ethnic discrimination and the promotion of equal treatment and different awareness raising campaigns.
- Strategic litigation defending equal treatment in the courts.
The main part of this report focuses on increasing the visibility of the everyday discrimination faced by the Roma community in Spain through the identification of 148 cases of discrimination in 2012 which show the problems encountered by Roma families in interviewing for job openings, renting a flat or getting in to a discotheque, and the unfair treatment they receive from certain professional sectors due to their ethnic group. The cases registered are presented by areas with disaggregated data in order to provide the greatest degree of information, including a description of some of the work strategies developed. Also, we have drafted the conclusions reached from our work assisting victims of discrimination and have made proposals to achieve greater effectiveness in the defence of people who fall victim to the regrettable act of discrimination.
The report then provides an in-depth analysis of some issues related to the social responsibility of the media in fighting discrimination featuring an article by Emilio de Benito, a journalist for EL PAIS, case law of the European Court of Human Rights with an analysis by constitutional law professor Fernando Rey and the strategic defence currently being provided by the Fundación Secretariado Gitano. Through these articles we believe that we are addressing three issues which are key today: working with the media, the need for strategic litigation and case-law focusing on non-discrimination.
The report continues tracing the important advances made in 2011-2012 at European and national levels: publications, recommendations, strategies, the active role played by the Fundación Secretariado Gitano as member of the FRA advisory committee, the work carried out by the Council for the advancement of equal treatment and non-discrimination for reasons of ethnic or racial origin, etc.
Lastly, it includes positive developments that have taken place during that same period: the work done by the Platform for Police Management of Diversity, diversity projects developed by Oberaxe, FSG training and awareness-raising initiatives and the report presented to the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee, all actions which we feel are of particular interest for all of the key players involved in the fight against discrimination.
We are now immersed in a complicated socio-economic situation which is widening the inequality gap in our country. Spain has been a benchmark at European level for its social inclusion policy targeting the Roma community, a group which over the last 30 years has made important strides in several areas such as employment, housing, education, etc. thanks to public policies in the sphere of equal opportunity. However, despite these efforts, the Roma Community is still not at the level of mainstream society.
The ease with which this vulnerable group has arrived to the brink of taking a huge step backwards in the social inclusion process is particularly worrisome and we must therefore bolster the public policies guaranteeing equal opportunity in vital areas such as education, housing, employment, health and non-discrimination as a cross-cutting factor affecting all of these. It is therefore essential to execute a National Strategy for the Social inclusion of the Roma population (2012- 2020) and the national strategy against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related forms of intolerance.
In the sphere of equal treatment and non-discrimination of the Roma community, deep-seated prejudices against this ethnic minority continue to engender serious social rejection which is plain to see in the cases registered, in the different Eurobarometers and the surveys conducted by the Sociological Research Centre. To make matters worse, today we are faced with discriminatory and racist incidents and expressions of hatred, especially on the Internet. The racist discourse of some Spanish political leaders is also cause for concern.
This is accompanied by an increase in acts of discrimination and hatred against Roma throughout Europe. Unfortunately, 2011 has been no exception. The Council of Europe has identified a number of cases of discrimination against Roma in most European countries: the burning of homes, physical violence, hate speeches in the media by political leaders, school segregation, discrimination in access to the labour market, hospitals and social services, mass expulsions, destruction of homes...; the list goes on and on and requires decisive action on the part of authorities at all levels: local, regional, national and international. In 2011 international human rights organisations such as ECRI, FRA, OSCE, ENAR and Amnesty International have denounced all of these cases highlighting anti-Gypsyism as a very serious, widespread phenomenon in Europe.
Despite the seriousness of the present situation, important strides have been made in Spain and the rest of Europe such as the criminal code reform bill, the work done by several organisations such at the Platform for Police Management of Diversity, the Council for the advancement of equal treatment and non-discrimination for reason of racial or ethnic origin, the action unit of the network of centres offering assistance to victims of discrimination, the appointment of Supreme Court prosecutors to address cases of equality, hate crime and discrimination services at a number of different prosecution offices, the work performed in this field by different social entities, the efforts made by the Fundamental Rights Platform, the Council of Europe, etc.
This year has been a complicated, characterised by economic cutbacks and difficulties faced by vulnerable groups in improving their lot. It was also a year in which social organisations played a key role, continued with their mission and received institutional support.
The challenge for our country now is for all agents involved to build a solid society where democratic principles, including equality, are guaranteed.
Once again, we would like to express our gratitude to all of the individuals and institutions who have collaborated in compiling this Report. Firstly to the workers of the FSG who, from their different work centres, were involved in the collection of and follow-up on the different cases and provided support to the victims of discrimination.
Secondly, to the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality which once again has provided the FSG with economic support for the actions we carry out in the promotion of equal treatment of the Roma community.
And lastly we express our appreciation for the collaboration received from Fernando Rey, Constitutional Law professor at the University of Valladolid and from Emilio de Benito, a journalist at EL PAÍS newspaper. Their specialised articles have bolstered our work in defence of equality and of all victims of ethnic discrimination who have shown the courage to confront this situation and report it to the FSG, an organisation which will continue doing its utmost to combat discrimination.
Sara Giménez Giménez
Responsible for the FSG’s Area of Equality