For the fifteenth consecutive year, Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) has published its annual report on discrimination and the Roma community, containing data on cases of discrimination and anti-Gypsyism documented and handled by the organisation throughout 2018. Akin to previous years’ reports, this one has been prepared within the scope of the FSG’s work on promoting the equal treatment of the Roma community. This is an area in which we have spent many years striving to make improvements in the fight against discrimination and to definitively end the blight that has historically prevented Roma people from effectively exercising their human rights.
Throughout 2018, FSG, with the leadership and coordination of the Department for Equal Treatment and the Fight against Discrimination — led by Sara Giménez until May 2019 until her replacement by Cristina de la Serna — has compiled, investigated and handled 334 cases of anti-Gypsyism, a considerable rise on the 232 cases documented in last year’s report. We believe that this is, on the one hand, down to the hard work of equality officers and many other colleagues working to raise cases. On the other hand, we believe that it is the result of empowering many Roma people to exercise their rights when they find themselves victims of discrimination — an area in which FSG has been working for many years.
In any case, even if there has been a considerable rise in documented cases, underreporting is still rife among victims of discrimination; therefore, these 334 cases are not representative of the extent of discrimination and anti-Gypsyism that Roma people in our country continue to face. However, they do represent a good sample of what this scourge really means in the day-to-day life of many Roma people, and shows once again the need for a comprehensive equality and anti-discrimination law to regulate all discriminatory behaviour.
An area where such a law is particularly needed is in the right to housing, which is precisely the issue on which we have decided to focus this XI Annual Report. If there is a type of discrimination that, sadly, has been recurrent since we began publishing reports on discrimination and the Roma community 15 years ago, it is the refusal by private individuals to rent their homes to Roma people merely because of their ethnic origin. It is one of the incidents of discrimination that is currently not covered by Spanish legislation. It is often the case that victims lack the effective legal channels to report and find recourse in such cases. In the chapter “In Depth” you may find more information about cases of this kind of discrimination, both towards the Roma community (see the article written by FSG) and towards other groups that suffer ethnic or racial discrimination (see the article by Mikel Mazkiaran).
All the barriers to access to housing faced by Roma people are a violation of human rights; as expert lawyer Sonia Olea explains in her article in this chapter, housing is a human right and is a necessary stepping stone to the exercise of many other rights.
Another problem related to access to housing relates to violations of rights that can often be seen in areas with a high Roma population, such as evictions that fail to observe the principle of legality. In 2018, we had the opportunity to take one of these evictions all the way to court, on behalf of a Roma family in Cañada Real Galiana. We were successful in securing a court ruling declaring that the fundamental rights of the family and their three small children had been violated. This case is also detailed in the chapter “In Depth” in an article written by Rafael Cid, the legal counsel advising FSG in this case.
The case shows the importance of using strategic litigation as a tool to defence the rights of Roma people and the principle of non-discrimination, and is one of 20 cases in which we have pursued legal actions in 2018. A new feature in the report this year is a chapter on strategic litigation undertaken in cases of discrimination, hate crime and anti-Gypsyism, describing cases and lessons learned.
As in other years, we have chosen the most serious cases of discrimination against the Roma communication and of anti-Gypsyism in 2018 in other European countries, and have shared best practice, progress and national and European case law that has helped in the fight against ethnic discrimination this year.
We hope that this report can offer some visibility of discrimination against the Roma community and anti-Gypsyism, which sadly continues to occur in Spain and throughout Europe, and will also improve the response in laws and institutions to these violations of rights.
Lastly, we are hugely grateful to the persons and institutions who have helped us in preparing this report. We would like to thank the Spanish Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare for offering their financial support, as well as the Ministry of the Office of the Prime Minister, Parliamentary Relations and Equality, which has also contributed to our work combating the discrimination suffered by Roma people. We would also like to thank all the staff members at FSG who have documented the cases and dealt with victims, as well as the authors of the articles featured in the “In Depth” chapter.
It goes without saying that our greatest thanks goes to each of the victims of discrimination and anti-Gypsyism for their bravery in reporting these cases.
President of Fundación Secretariado Gitano