Just half of Traveller children in secondary school
By Ann Cahill, Europe Correspondent
28/02/2012 – Just over half of Traveller children make it to post-primary schooling, according to a detailed report on Travellers and Roma in the EU.
Legislation criminalising the entering on to public or private land together with limited housing options has disrupted Traveller children’s schooling, the report found.
The first comprehensive overview of the human rights situation of these peoples in all 47 member states of the Council of Europe shows discrimination against gypsies is widespread, with politicians, media, and extremist groups preaching hate and violence against them.
Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, said: “In many European countries, Roma and Travellers are still denied basic human rights and suffer blatant racism. They remain far behind others in education, employment, access to decent housing and health.
“Their average life span is shorter and infant mortality rates are higher compared to other groups.”
In Britain, up to 12,000 children are not in secondary school and those who do attend report they are often bullied and try to hide their identity. E-learning to allow Traveller pupils remain in contact with their schools during absences are showing promise, according to the report.
Up to 90% of Roma people in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic are out of work. According to census figures, 73% of Traveller men and 60% of Traveller women were unemployed.
In Ireland, Traveller groups said recent improvements concerning access to education had not yet resulted in better integration into employment.
“The almost total unemployment of working-age Roma in several European countries represents an inexcusable waste of human potential,” the report said.
Roma and Travellers who do get work find themselves in a “glass box” that prevents them from progressing. Even Roma with university degrees find themselves discriminated against in employment.
The report found discrimination is widespread across all areas, including healthcare.
Almost 20% of Travellers in Ireland in 2008 reported experiencing discrimination when trying to register with a doctor.
In Hungary, Roma women are segregated from others in maternity wards and in one hospital, the patients were forced to clean the ward themselves while patients have reported that “doctors refuse to touch them of make only cursory examinations, leading to misdiagnosis or prescription of inadequate medicines”.
Travellers and Roma have problems exercising their rights to freedom of movement, according to the report. According to the European Court of Human Rights there is a “positive obligation… to facilitate the gypsy way of life”.
However, many European states try to prevent them from moving around. “Lack of provision of camping sites for Travellers and other itinerant groups has been identified as a further hindrance of freedom of movement” in several countries including Ireland and Britain.
The 8m to 12m gypsy population forms Europe’s largest and most vulnerable minority. In countries such as Romania and Hungary, they will form up to 25% of the working age population in another generation, according to forecasts.