The 10 to 12 million Roma people in Europe are denied basic human rights and victims of widespread discrimination, racist attacks and hate speech. Structural and institutional racism against Roma, known as Antigypsyism, is a root cause of their exclusion across Europe. Tackling structural racism and dispelling prejudices are essential to ensure Roma can become equal citizens in European societies.
Walls are being built in cities throughout Eastern Europe to separate Roma from the rest of society. Anti-Roma marches are often used to mobilise votes by populist and far right groups and parties in European countries, including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and protesters regularly try to destroy Roma houses where families and children live.
Roma children are segregated in substandard schools and classrooms in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Greece and Slovakia, among others. In the Czech Republic, almost 30 % of the children attending special needs education and following a programme for mild mental disability are Roma.
In several European countries, including Italy and France, many Roma are forced to live in isolated and segregated camps, making it extremely difficult for them to access basic rights to education, employment and healthcare, and making them vulnerable to forced evictions.
Antigypsyism is the specific racism towards Roma, Sinti, Travellers and others who are stigmatised as ‘gypsies’ in the public imagination. Antigypsyism is often used in a narrow sense to indicate anti-Roma attitudes or the expression of negative stereotypes in the public sphere or hate speech. However, antigypsyism gives rise to a much wider spectrum of discriminatory expressions and practices, including many implicit or hidden manifestations. It is fueled by deeply rooted negative stereotyping by mainstream society. It leads to the exclusion and dehumanisation of Roma people.
Antigypsyism is not only widespread, but also deeply entrenched in social and cultural attitudes and institutional practice. This makes the challenge of tackling it both more urgent and more difficult.
Worryingly, anti-Roma prejudice is extending beyond the ‘traditional’ far-right and extremist hate-mongers and is increasingly present in mainstream politics. Authorities’ lack of response to racist attacks or speech against Roma is widespread, and some have even excused them or suggested that Roma were themselves to blame.
The European Union adopted the European framework for national Roma integration strategies in 2011, which resulted in National Roma Integration Strategies in 27 Member States. The adoption of a specific strategy demonstrated the EU’s political will to fight the discrimination faced by Roma. However, these strategies have so far largely failed – one of the reasons being that they have not addressed prejudice and negative attitudes towards Roma as root causes of Roma exclusion.
What are we doing about it?
We are calling on policy and decision makers to recognise Antigypsyism as a specific form of structural racism targeting Roma and to put into action a coherent set of measures to combat it.
We are urging the EU institutions to continue to put pressure on EU Member States to ensure that National Strategies for Roma Integration are actually implemented and include a specific focus on non-discrimination and Antigypsyism. Addressing the effects of discriminatory treatment – poverty, poor quality housing, substandard education, to name a few – is necessary, but in and of itself does nothing to eradicate the ultimate source of the disadvantaged position of many Romani citizens. Antigypsyism cannot be simply treated as a thematic issue, but needs to be dealt with as an integral part of employment, education, health policies.
Pervasive structural and institutional racism also prevents meaningful participation of Roma in designing and implementing effective policies. We are advocating for Roma to be considered as essential partners in policy and decision making processes concerning them. European Institutions and Member States must provide adequate structures for Roma participation and empowerment.
We are calling for a positive political discourse on Roma, based on equal rights, and for States to challenge stereotypes through public awareness raising campaigns and support to community-led initiatives.
We work to debunk myths on the Roma to counteract deeply rooted stereotypes and prejudices against them.
78% of Roma in Slovakia and 73% in the Czech Republic experience discrimination when looking for a job
85% of Italian people and 66% of French people hold unfavourable views on Roma
1 in 5 Roma respondents have been victims of racially motivated crimes
Who are the Roma?
The ‘Roma’ are not a homogenous community; it’s impossible to find one word which would successfully include all communities commonly associated with that name or so-called Gypsies. Important to note is that not all these communities in the world today recognise themselves as Roma. But they do have linked histories and experiences of racism, discrimination and exclusion from mainstream society.
The term ‘Roma’, deriving from the Romani word for a man/person, is the traditional appellation for some, mainly Romani speaking groups. The EU institutions use the term ‘Roma’ as an umbrella term including groups of people who share more or less similar cultural characteristics, such as the Roma, Sinti, Travellers, Ashkali, Manush, Jenische, Kaldaresh and Kalé.
While no official data on ethnicity is available across the EU, it is estimated that 10 to 12 million Roma are in Europe, and approximately 6 million in the EU, making them the largest minority group in Europe. The main sub-groups are ‘oriental’ Roma (85%), Sinti (referred to as ‘Manouches’ in France – 4%), Kalés (10%), and Gypsies/Travellers in the UK and Ireland (0.5%), as well as many smaller groups. Romania and Bulgaria have the largest Roma populations. 80% of Roma in Europe are now settled.
What is Antigypsyism/anti-Tsiganism/Romaphobia?
Antigypsyism/anti-Tsiganism/Romaphobia essentially means the same thing and is a specific and long established form of racism. Throughout history, the words “Gypsy”, “Tsigane/Zigeuner”, and similar terms, have been used. These words have taken a derogatory connotation in very many languages.
Historically, Roma across Europe have been the minority – together with the Jews – that have suffered most from discrimination on grounds of their supposed ‘inferiority’ and the subsequent negative stereotyping. Today, stereotypes and prejudices against the Roma are so deeply rooted in European culture that they are often not conceived as such and accepted as fact.
The working definition adopted by the Alliance against Antigypsyism, of which ENAR is a member, is the following:
Antigypsyism is a historically constructed, persistent complex of customary racism against social groups identified under the stigma ‘gypsy’ or other related terms, and incorporates:
1. a homogenising and essentialising perception and description of these groups;
2. the attribution of specific characteristics to them;
3. discriminating social structures and violent practices that emerge against that background, which have a degrading and ostracising effect and which reproduce structural disadvantages.
The definition highlights the historical character of Antigypsyism along with the fact that it has no fixed content: It adapts and readapts to changing social, economic and political realities, but always resurfaces. This definition avoids placing certain manifestations of Antigypsyism, specific to certain contexts, at the center of attention, so as not to obscure other – perhaps less visible, but equally harmful – practices. To acknowledge Antigypsyism is to recognise the multifaceted character of the phenomenon and the common roots of discriminatory practices with widely varying forms and intensities. For more details, see http://antigypsyism.eu
What is the existing EU legislation on Roma inclusion?
Discrimination on the basis of racial or ethnic origin in education, employment, health and housing as well as other areas is already prohibited by EU law, but the European Commission specifically addressed Roma inclusion by adopting a European Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) in 2011. The Framework urges Member States to develop and implement an integrated and sustainable approach to Roma inclusion and specifically focusses on four key areas: education, employment, healthcare and housing. Every Member State, except Malta, has drawn up either a National Strategy for Roma Integration or a set of measures concerning the integration of their Roma populations.
The European Commission publishes annual reports assessing the implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies.
Organisations working on Antigypsyism
German Roma and Sinti Council (Germany)
Romedia Foundation, Blog: Xenophobia and antiziganism on the rise in Sweden – November 2015 (Hungary)
Romedia Foundation, Blog: Segregation hinders the employment of Roma women – September 2015 (Hungary)
Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights, Roma housing debate – November 2015 (Lithuania)
AEPADO, Project on gender-based violence (Romania)
UKREN, Blog: Addressing Roma inclusion must be a priority on International Roma Day – April 2015 (United Kingdom)