Another year has passed and the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG), presents its XII Report on Discrimination and the Roma Community. For 12 years running we have published this report whose main objective is still to raise awareness about and denounce discrimination which unfortunately continues to plague the Roma community. The report describes 154 cases of discrimination and zooms in on a central theme, “anti-Gypsyism”, while also highlighting progress and best practices in this area.
This year’s report addresses a central theme, anti-Gypsyism, a necessary term to refer to a specific type of racism manifesting itself through violence, hate speech and discrimination against the Roma people. We believe that the use of this term marks progress in shedding light on the social rejection of this segment of society and it is vital that this not go unnoticed or be watered down by using more general terms. It is essential to analyse this specific type of racism and promote solutions, as we are facing a major social problem that must be solved with the tools provided by democratic states and rule of law. We find ourselves before a type of racism that triggers an array of actions that undermine the right to dignity, the right to equality and the integrity of this ethnic minority. Rights that are recognised and protected in our legal system and under international law but which are violated time and again for simply being Roma.
The cases we record annually confirm that anti-Gypsyism is an obstacle to equal opportunity insofar as the exercise of other social rights such as employment, education and housing is equally essential for a dignified life. Therefore, in order to move forward in the inclusion of the Roma community and the exercise of citizenship, it is absolutely necessary to end all forms of discrimination. To that end, the FSG will continue to promote and reinforce this strategy with staff members specialised in this field in 28 municipalities.
For over 11 years, the Fundación Secretariado Gitano’s (FSG) Department of Equality has been recording cases and assisting and advising Roma who are repeatedly subjected to every-day ‘low intensity’ discrimination. But make no mistake about it, this discrimination is insidious (e.g. people refuse to sell or rent Roma a home, they are not invited to job interviews, they are refused entry to shops, they are denied places at school, they are scorned when taking public transport, they are subject to racist comments in public, etc.). We also encounter violent cases of discrimination in the form of hate speech and hate crime, quite commonplace in social networks in Spain (“Gypsies belong in the gas chamber” or the web page called “Death to all Gypsies”), and racist neighbourhood demonstrations to expel Roma from towns. Unfortunately in some other European countries, there are a great many expulsions and violent attacks.
We believe that it is high time to promote one of the basic pillars of modern democratic nations, dignified and equal treatment of people, and to that end we will work to make the authorities fulfil their constitutional mandate under Article 9.2 which ensures the protection of the fundamental rights of all people, specifically the Roma people. We are also working to empower victims of discrimination, paying particular attention to Roma women given the importance of informing them of their rights and of the tools at their disposal to defend themselves.
We must ensure that the three branches of our government—executive, legislative and judicial—take action to defend the fundamental right to dignity and equality as this will give rise to an important social benefit, namely the building of a tolerant, cohesive and intercultural society. Moreover, it is vital that third sector organisations working for the promotion and defence of fundamental rights team up with us in defending the trampled rights of the Roma community. In conclusion, we need to build a better society, and if part of our society is a victim of permanent and paralysing racism, then we must be doing something wrong. We must all join forces to turn this situation around.
Once again, we would like to express our gratitude to all of the individuals and institutions who have collaborated in compiling this Report. First to the workers of the FSG who, through 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.
Second, 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.
Lastly, we are grateful for the collaboration of Manuel Angel Río, Ramón Flores, Helios Garcés and Valeriu Nicolae, professionals who work day in and day out to defend equality. Also, a special thanks to all the victims of ethnic discrimination who have put their trust in our Foundation for 12 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 defend the right to equality and combat anti-Gypsyism.
Sara Giménez Giménez
Attorney at Law Director of the Department of Equality and Anti-Discrimination