Another year has passed and the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) presents its Annual Report on Discrimination and the Roma Community. This is the 10th year of publication of this report, the main objective of which is to shed light on and report discrimination which, unfortunately, the Roma community continues to suffer.
We believe it is extremely important for the government and the society at large to be aware of these cases of discrimination and thus have an idea of the everyday reality that Roma families face in gaining access to housing, employment, education and services simply because of their ethnic background. In some cases, rejection has overstepped the boundary of discrimination and turned into racist violence as was the case this year in two towns in the south of Spain, Estepa and Castellar, where the homes of several Roma families were set on fire during the course of racist demonstrations. Unfortunately, political parties and human rights organisations failed to speak out against these inadmissible and unjust acts.
We’ve been working for ten years in the area of equal treatment and anti-discrimination and can confirm that discrimination against the Roma community is caused by the negative social image people have of them, i.e. prejudice and stereotypes that are proving difficult to eliminate because they are deeply rooted in our society and in the arguments used by most citizens when erroneously referring to this sector of the population. Many Roma have a standard lifestyle and don’t even remotely resemble the negative social image which limits their right to equal treatment.
Societal awareness is intimately linked to the media that play a key role in this connection. In the cases recorded in this decade of work we found that the media often perpetuate a biased and prejudiced image of the Roma community. Moreover, regarding the image of the Roma community, we regret to report that in the latest update of the Spanish dictionary by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, the latter changed the fourth definition of the word “Gitano” (Roma). It used to read: “one who deceives” and now has been updated by: “swindler, cheat”. So now when the Spanish society looks up the word “gitano” in our dictionary they will see the Roma community associated with “swindler or cheat who, by illegal deception, cheats someone in a purchase, sale or exchange.”
Once again this year we want to give the victims of discrimination a voice and let people know that they need to be effectively accompanied and defended, especially in these times of economic crisis when inequality is ravaging the most vulnerable. We believe it vital that our country continues to be known for being inclusive and to that end actions and measures must be implemented to guarantee equal treatment and opportunities for all.
As regards the defence of non-discrimination, we still face challenges. In our ten years of work, we feel that very little progress has been made in implementing existing legislation in this area, there is still a significant lack of data on discriminatory incidents and there is still a need to provide comprehensive services to potential victims of racial or ethnic discrimination. We have to get victims to report discrimination and cases of racial or ethnic hatred; they must not be made to feel helpless, unprotected and devoid of compensation when their house is burned down, when they are denied access to a job or when they cannot go to a pool or a discotheque simply because they are Roma.
We are still witnessing unjust acts of rejection and, in some cases, even racial or ethnic hatred (Romaphobia) in several European countries: mass expulsions, segregated schools, violent attacks, etc.; and the question is, what is the response of European institutions?
In this connection, one of the FSG’s priorities is to promote equality and combat ethnic discrimination. The FSG’s Equality Department has been working along these lines for over 10 years and continues implementing different initiatives to address the issue of discrimination against the Roma community:
- Assistance initiatives for victims of discrimination that we have strengthened since March 2013 by coordinating the Victim Assistance Service of the Council for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination, work we do side-by-side with 7 other social entities. This service was established in 2014 and we hope it will grow in 2015.
- Technical assistance and training of key players in the fight against discrimination: mostly technical personnel and the heads of administrations and social organisations, police forces, jurists, the media and universities.
- Promotion of policies supporting the advancement of equal treatment by lobbying and monitoring anti-discrimination legislation and its everyday enforcement and European recommendations in this regard.
- Social awareness-raising actions through the dissemination of information related with the fight against ethnic discrimination and the promotion of equal treatment and social awareness-raising campaigns.
- Strategic litigation before the courts, a course of action that began with the case of a Roma woman who was denied her widow’s pension and which went all the way to the European Court of Human Rights which ruled in her favour. We then defended another Roma woman from Romania who was treated unfairly by the Mossos d’Esquadra (regional police of Catalonia) and got a favourable ruling in that case as well. Currently, together with the agencies of the State Council of the Roma People, we are defending the Roma community in general in the case of racist violence in Castellar.
- Participation in European forums and projects to combat anti-Gypsyism and Romaphobia in Europe.
The main section of this report is devoted to shedding light on the everyday discrimination still faced today by the Roma community in Spain, 151 cases having been identified in 2013 and 1073 cases in this decade of work; a sample that gives us a closer look at the injustice of social rejection suffered by this group and sheds light on the need for key professional sectors in this area to improve their performance with respect to this ethnic minority. The cases registered are presented by area with disaggregated data so as to provide the greatest degree of information, including a description of some of the work strategies developed. Also, we have drafted the conclusions we 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.
We then attempt to contextualise discrimination by analysing our political representatives who are key members of our society insofar as they play an important role in defending Equal Treatment and Opportunity, we address the concept of “liquid racism”, analyse the current makeup of the European Parliament, gain insight into the legal defence in an important case in Spain and then hear from various political leaders who give their views on discrimination against the Roma community.
The report continues with a reference to the significant progress made during the year 2013-2014 at European and national level: EU recommendations on the inclusion of the Roma community, the report of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on the framework decision regarding racism and xenophobia and hate crime victims, the publication in Sweden of the “White Paper on abuses and violations against Roma in the 20th century”, the work done by the Assistance Service for Victims of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination, the creation of the Council for Victims of Hate Crimes and other topics of special relevance in the field of Equality.
Lastly, we focus on the positive developments that have taken place during the same period: social awareness campaigns addressing non-discrimination, the presentation of the Action Protocol to be followed by the state police and security forces in the event of hate crimes, specialised publications shedding light on effective and inclusive public policies, etc., i.e. developments we believe to be of great interest for all the key stakeholders in the fight against discrimination.
Despite the current hard times and with the perspective gained from ten years of publishing this Report on Discrimination and the Roma Community, we believe that important advances have been made at national and European level such as the draft criminal code reform, the networking practices of various entities such as the Platform for Police Management of Social Diversity and the Council for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination, unity of action on the part of the Assistance Service for Victims of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination, the appointment of 50 prosecutors assigned to courts in each province to prosecute hate and discrimination crimes, the protocols implemented by a number of police forces and the work being done at European level by equality bodies and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). These are actions that imply substantial change in which networking plays a key role in more effectively defending equality.
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.
Finally, we would like to express our gratitude for the collaboration offered by Fernando Rey, Óscar Vicario, Gaspar Llamazares, Gonzalo Robles, Pablo Iglesias, Ramón Jáuregui and all of the other entities, individuals and institutions that, with their work day in and day out, contribute to the defence of equality. Also, a special thanks to all the victims of ethnic discrimination who have put their trust in our Foundation for ten years now and have come to us for help in defending their rights. For all of these reasons the FSG will continue to work forcefully to promote equality and combat discrimination against the Roma community.
Sara Giménez Giménez
Attorney at Law
Responsible for the Area of Equality. FSG