As it has done every year since 2005, Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) presents its XVI Annual Report “Discrimination and the Roma Community”, to shine a continued light on discrimination, anti- Gypsyism and violations of the right to equal treatment that Roma people in our country still face. This year, the report focuses on discrimination in employment, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Acceder programme that FSG is celebrating this year. The programme, recognised by the European Commission as best practice, was launched in 2000 with the aim of boosting Roma people’s access to the employment market.
For FSG it makes great sense to couple Acceder with the fight against discrimination, because our focus on it can be sourced back to the launch of the programme 20 years ago. It is no coincidence that the programme was initially financed by the European Social Fund’s Operational Programme to Combat Discrimination. For us, employment is and continues to be one of the best vehicles to achieve real equality of opportunities and the Roma community’s effective enjoyment of human rights free of discrimination. We have been testament to this, having seen the impact that the programme has had on the 31,981 people who have secured a job up to 2019, not just on their lives but on those of their families.
However, if employment is a fundamental vehicle to transform people’s lives and guarantee equal treatment, discrimination continues to be a barrier to many Roma people securing work. The Department for Equality and Fight against Discrimination at FSG has been witness to this, as we explain in the chapter “In Depth”, in which we report a significant number of cases in which companies, employers and coworkers have treated Roma people less than favourably, essentially due to their ethnicity. It is a scourge that needs fighting, with the help of resources from the appropriate institutions. Every policy designed to improve Roma people’s employability must include effective measures to combat discrimination in the world of work.
In this year’s report we have been lucky enough to receive contributions from three experts who shine a light on how to effectively combat discrimination in this area: Maria Lourdes Arastey Sahún, Judge of the Supreme Court Social Branch; Arantxa Zaguirre, expert employment lawyer specialising in combating discrimination; and Rubén Herranz González, Social Policy Deputy of the trade union Comisiones Obreras. We are deeply grateful to them for offering their knowledge and experience both to the report and to our mission to fight discrimination and anti-Gypsyism.
As we have done in every annual report, this year we have collated all the cases we handled in 2019 in which, following our expert intervention and legal examination, we could confirm that a discriminatory or anti-Gypsy hate incident had taken place. This year, you can find a summary of the cases in the printed version of the report, and a detailed recounting of the events, our intervention and the outcome, on our website www.gitanos.org. What’s more, in the coming months we will be launching an online database with the information included in the 16 Discrimination and the Roma Community annual reports that FSG has published.
The total number of cases in this edition is 425, compared with the 334 cases we reported last year. It is important to note that this rise is partly caused by a methodological change, because for the first time we have decided to include anti-Gypsy hate messages found on social media and reported in the European Commission’s Code of Conduct monitoring round on hate speech online (an area in which FSG is considered a trusted flagger), which is a privileged social media reporting channel. On the other hand, this year we have reported far fewer cases in the media than last year, which shows the significant progress made by mainstream media outlets in 2019. However, at the same time, there has been a major rise in cases of direct victims in other areas, such as access to goods and services, which doubtless shows that our participants are becoming better equipped at identifying situations of discrimination and reporting them.
It is in this area where the role that our Equality Officers (mostly Roma women) have been playing in many areas since 2016 is essential, as part of the programme Calí, for the equality of Roma women. The inclusion of this professional profile has contributed to an improvement not just in the care for victims of discrimination and anti-Gypsyism, but in Roma people’s awareness of their rights when faced with discrimination. In addition, their intersectional focus allows us to offer even more specialist attention where the discrimination occurs not only due to ethnicity but due to the victims being women or girls, as has been the case this year in areas such as anti-Gypsy and gendered hate speech, harassment of women in shopping centres or bullying at school and other forms of discrimination specifically suffered by Roma girls.
This year we have continued to pursue the litigation strategy as a way of securing favourable court rulings for victims of discrimination and anti-Gypsyism, improving the response from the courts and their case law in these cases, and raising awareness among the authorities and society as a whole of the human impact of discrimination and the importance of tackling it. We delve into this in the chapter on Strategic Litigation, reporting the failures and successes and cases in which, even if a conviction was not secured, we were satisfied to have got the perpetrators of discrimination in the dock. Our approach to litigation is that it is a marathon, not a sprint — slow on occasions, but still a highly powerful tool that is gradually forcing important change.
Although this report covers cases in 2019, we cannot ignore the COVID-10 pandemic we are currently entrenched in, and the impact that it is having on discrimination and anti-Gypsyism. We are greatly concerned that the health, economic and social crisis is causing new forms of discrimination, stigmatisation and hate speech against the Roma community. We are also growing increasingly concerned that the crisis is making people who are suffering from discrimination reluctant to exercise their rights.
The current situation highlights more than ever that our legal system desperately needs a comprehensive equality and anti-discrimination law to allow us to respond properly to the various forms of discrimination and anti-Gypsyism and, above all, to give victims an effective resource to turn to when their rights are violated because of their ethnic origin. Our country cannot continue to tolerate the gaping hole in our legislation.
Lastly, we are hugely grateful to the institutions who have helped us in preparing this report. We are grateful to the Ministry for Social Rights and the 2030 Agenda, for its economic support in the publication and dissemination of the report (through the 2019 income tax return option — for charity, other social interest purposes), as well as the Ministry of Equality and the Council for the Elimination of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination, which have also contributed to FSG’s work to tackle the discrimination suffered by Roma people.
As always, 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