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Romania: Situation of Roma, including their treatment by society and government authorities; state protection and support services available to Roma (2007 - August 2010)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 8 October 2010
Citation / Document Symbol ROU103575.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Romania: Situation of Roma, including their treatment by society and government authorities; state protection and support services available to Roma (2007 - August 2010), 8 October 2010, ROU103575.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e4393e82.html [accessed 20 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Official census figures put the number of Roma in Romania at approximately 500,000 people (WAZ.EUobserver.com 7 Sept. 2010; BalkanInsight.com 12 Dec. 2008; MRG 2007). However, it is estimated that the true number of Roma may be over two million (WAZ.EUobserver.com 7 Sept. 2010; AI Jan. 2010, 2; MRG 2007), which would comprise about 10 percent of the Romanian population (WAZ.EUobserver.com 7 Sept. 2010; AI Jan. 2010, 2). Some sources explain that the discrepancy in numbers may be due to an unwillingness to identify as Roma because of the negative perception of them by Romanian society (WAZ.EUobserver.com 7 Sept. 2010; Romani CRISS/RCA 27 July 2010, 7; BalkanInsight.com 12 Dec. 2008).

According to Amnesty International (AI), 75 percent of Roma live in poverty, compared to 24 percent of the general Romanian population (Jan. 2010, 2). News agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that Romanian Roma are "often driven out [of their country] by poverty" (AFP 21 Aug. 2010). AFP notes that "Romania has been hit with one of the worst recessions" in the European Union (EU) and that "the economy is expected to contract again" in 2010 (ibid.).

AI states that the physical health and living conditions of Roma are among the worst in Romania (AI Jan. 2010, 2). Roma face housing segregation from the general population (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6; WAZ.EUobserver.com 7 Sept. 2010; AI 2010, 268). Housing for Roma often lacks basic modern amenities such as water and electricity (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6; AI Jan. 2010, 2). There is a high rate of unemployment and low literacy rates among the Romani population (WAZ.EUobserver.com 7 Sept. 2010; BBC 4 Sept. 2010).

Many Roma do not possess state-issued identification documents (Romani CRISS/RCA 27 July 2010, 7; WAZ.EUobserver.com 7 Sept. 2010; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 2d and Sec. 6) such as identity cards (WAZ.EUobserver.com 7 Sept. 2010; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 2d and Sec. 6) and birth certificates (ibid., Sec. 2d and Sec. 6). Because of a lack of identification, many Roma cannot access certain state services (WAZ.EUobserver.com 7 Sept. 2010; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6), such as electoral participation and health services (ibid.). According to the United States (US) Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009, a government-run program to help Roma obtain such identification ended because of insufficient funds (ibid.).

Country Reports 2009 indicates that Roma women had "a difficult time accessing reproductive health services" and reports that, according to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Roma women "faced both gender and ethnic discrimination" (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6). Country Reports 2009 also reports that in November 2009, the Roma Center for Health Polices (SASTIPEN) and the Bucharest-based Institute for Public Health began a project to study Roma access to health care (ibid.).

Treatment

According to AI, Roma are the subject of "widespread prejudice" (AI 2010, 267). Sources report that Roma are discriminated against in the areas of education, housing, and health services (ibid.; BalkanInsight.com 12 Dec. 2008). Roma are also reportedly subject to discrimination in employment (ibid.; AI 2009). Roma children may face segregation in school (Romani CRISS/RCA 27 July 2010, 13-19; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6; MRG 2007). AI reports that a study sponsored by the government found that "55 per cent of the respondents believed that Roma should not be allowed to travel abroad as they damaged the reputation of the country and over 43 per cent agreed that they would not hire Roma because they regarded them as 'lazy and thieving'" (2010, 267). AFP states that, according to a 2009 government study, seven out of ten Romanians "would not want a Roma as part of their family" (21 Aug. 2010).

According to AI, "[c]ases of violence against Romani communities, including the destruction of properties, were reported" in 2009 (AI 2010, 267-268). A widely cited example occurred in May 2009, when about 400 people attacked the homes of Roma in Sanmartin, causing them to flee out of concern for their safety (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6; AI 2010, 268). The Roma were reportedly harassed for weeks following the incident, in spite of a community agreement that had been developed by authorities to resolve tensions (ibid.; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6). Local NGOs and human rights groups criticized authorities for not doing enough to ensure the safety of the Roma (ibid.).

Some Roma face forced evictions in Romania (BBC 4 Sept. 2010; AI Jan. 2010, 2; MRG 2007). According to AI, "[i]n recent years, Romani communities have been evicted and relocated next to garbage dumps, sewage treatment plants or industrial areas on the outskirts of cities" (AI Jan. 2010, 2). AI adds that

[a]lthough some Roma people live in permanent structures with legal tenancy, many other long-standing Romani dwellings are considered by the government as "temporary" and unofficial, and their inhabitants do not have any proof of tenancy, which exacerbates their vulnerability to eviction. (Ibid.)

In a January 2010 report on the treatment of Roma in Romania, AI discusses a case in which over 100 Roma were forcibly evicted in 2004 by municipal authorities in the city of Miercurea Ciuc and relocated near a sewage treatment plant (ibid.). AI states that the eviction violated Romania's "international and regional human rights obligations," including the national requirement to study the health risks of living near the plant before placing the families in the area (ibid., 4 and 8). Authorities told AI that it is on the basis of their "goodwill" that the Romani families are permitted to remain in an area deemed illegal for habitation (ibid., 8). AI adds that "no one in the evicted community was provided with any state support to seek legal remedies against the municipal authorities' decision and actions" (ibid., 11). In 2005, the country's National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD or CNCD), an "independent governmental agency that is under parliamentary control" (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 5), ruled that the rights of the evicted Roma had been violated (AI Jan. 2010, 11). Nevertheless, AI reports that, as of December 2009, the Roma families were still living near the sewage treatment plant and were waiting to have their case heard by the European Court of Human Rights (ibid.).

In February 2010, a number of NGOs called for the resignation of the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs after he made a public statement which, they said, equated criminality with Roma on the basis of their ethnicity (SETimes 4 Mar. 2010; MRG 24 Feb. 2010; Romea.cz 20 Feb. 2010). In its international report for 2009, AI similarly reports that

[i]n September [2008], the High Court of Cassation and Justice ruled that the phrase "stinky gypsy," used by President Traian B?sescu when referring to a journalist in May 2007, was discriminatory. However, the Court did not apply any sanctions because the remark had been made during a private conversation. (AI 2009)

Roma political representation does not reflect their numbers among the population (MRG 2007; Freedom House 2010). According to Freedom House's 2010 Freedom in the World report, political participation by Roma is also "very weak" (Freedom House 2010). However, according to the US Country Reports for 2009, there is one Roma organization represented in parliament, the Roma Party-Pro Europe (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 3).

State protection and support services

According to Minority Rights Group International (MRG), reforms implemented before the full accession of Romania to the European Union in January 2007 have "significantly improved" conditions for Romanian minorities (2007). However, WAZ.EUobserver.com, a website that provides news about European countries, reports that programs directed towards Roma functioned better in the period preceding Romania's accession as authorities used available EU financial assistance that was no longer provided after Romania received EU membership (7 Sept. 2010).

There is an ombudsman's office in Romania (Romani CRISS/RCA 27 July 2010, 8; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 5). Country Reports 2009 states that the role of the ombudsman's office is "to protect citizens' constitutional rights" but that it "had limited power and no authority in cases requiring judicial action" (ibid.). According to the Shadow Report for the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which was prepared jointly by the Roma Center for Social Interventions and Studies (Romani CRISS) and the Roma Civic Alliance of Romania (RCA), the Ombudsman's Office has "fail[ed] to address any of the cases brought [to] its attention by Romani CRISS" (27 July 2010, 8).

According to AI, authorities in Romania have acted ineffectively against discrimination and violence towards Roma (AI 2009). Country Reports 2009 states that the NCCD received 62 complaints of discrimination towards Roma and began investigations of 4 other cases in 2009 (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 5). The 2010 Shadow Report states that the NCCD had determined that there was "a high number" of cases of discrimination against Roma (Romani CRISS/RCA 27 2010, 10). The authors of the report criticized the agency for not properly monitoring how well its decisions were implemented (ibid.).

A National Agency for the Roma also exists (ibid., 8-9; MRG 2007). According to the Shadow Report, it was founded in 2004 and is "the main coordinator and implementing agency responsible for the [government's] main political commitments regarding Roma" (Romani CRISS/RCA 27 July 2010, 8). However, the Shadow Report states that the agency "has a very limited capacity" to implement programs (ibid., 9).

Roma reportedly continue to be subject to ill treatment by law enforcement officials (AI 2009; MRG 2007; US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 1c). However, MRG reports that "[i]n recent years the government has made an effort to improve police protection of minorities and establish mechanisms of accountability for complaints of police abuse, especially of Roma" (MRG 2007). MRG also indicates that efforts have reportedly been made to recruit police officers who speak Romani (ibid.). According to Country Reports 2009, Romani mediators have been used "to facilitate communication between Roma and the authorities and assist in crisis situations" (11 Mar. 2010, Sec.1d).

There are several NGOs which advocate for and assist Roma in Romania (Romani CRISS/RCA 27 July 2010, 5). Among these is Romani CRISS, which has been "defend[ing] the rights of Roma in Romania" since its creation in 1993 (Romani CRISS/RCA 27 July 2010, 5). Romani CRISS provides legal services and works to combat discrimination against Roma (ibid.). Romani CRISS has been working with a human rights monitoring network across the country to monitor and document human rights abuses of Roma since 2002 (ibid., 6). In addition, the RCA, which was founded in 2006, serves as an umbrella organization for "20 Roma associations and foundations of Romania" that promotes the rights of Roma (ibid., 5).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 21 August 2010. "Poverty Forces Roma to Leave Bulgaria and Romania." (EUBusiness) [Accessed 13 Sept. 2010]

Amnesty International (AI). January 2010. Treated Like Waste: Roma Homes Destroyed, and Health at Risk, in Romania. (EUR 39/001/2010) [Accessed 10 Sept. 2010]

______. 2010. "Romania." Amnesty International Report 2010. [Accessed 10 Sept. 2010]

______. 2009. "Romania." Amnesty International Report 2009. [Accessed 10 Sept. 2010]

BalkanInsight.com. 12 December 2008. "Obama Offers Hope to Romania's Gypsies." [Accessed 10 Sept. 2010]

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 4 September 2010. "Q&A: France Roma Expulsions." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2010]

Freedom House. 2010. "Romania." Freedom in the World 2010. [Accessed 13 Sept. 2010]

Minority Rights Group International (MRG). 24 February 2010. "Pro-Roma NGOs Demand Resignation of Romanian Foreign Minister." [Accessed 10 Sept. 2010]

______. 2007. "Romania: Overview." World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. [Accessed 10 Sept. 2010]

Roma Center for Social Intervention and Studies (Romani CRISS) and Roma Civic Alliance of Romania (RCA). 27 July 2010. Shadow Report for the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. [Accessed 10 Sept. 2010]

Romea.cz [Prague]. 20 February 2010. "Anti -Discrimination NGOs Are Demanding the Resignation of the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Baconschi." [Accessed 10 Sept. 2010]

Southeast European Times (SETimes). 4 March 2010. Paul Ciocoiu. "Romanian Foreign Minister's Comments Spark Outcry." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2010]

United States (US). 11 March 2010. Department of State. "Romania." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009. [Accessed 13 Sept. 2010]

WAZ.EUobserver.com. 7 September 2010. Dan Alexe. "Romania Neglects Its Roma Minority." [Accessed 13 Sept. 2010]

Additional Sources Consulted

Publications: Housing Discrimination Against Roma in Selected EU Member States: An Analysis of EU-MIDIS Data.

Oral sources: The Centre for Legal Resources (Centrul de Resurse Juridice, CRJ) and the European Roma Rights Centre were unable to provide information within the time constraints of this Response. The Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania - The Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) did not have information for this Response. Attempts to contact the National Agency for the Roma, the Ethnocultural Diversity Resource Center, the Romanian Institute for Human Rights, the Roma Center for Social Interventions and Studies (Romani - CRISS) and the Rroma [sic] Center for Public Policies were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this response.

Internet sources, including: Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania - The Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH), Center Education 2000+, Centre for Legal Resources (CRJ), , Civil Society Development Foundation (CSDF), European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), Ethnocultural Diversity Resource Center, European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Human Rights Watch, National Agency for the Roma, Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) - Refworld, Roma Civic Alliance of Romania (RCA), Roma Education Fund, Romanian Institute for Human Rights, Rroma [sic] Center for Public Policies, United Kingdom (UK) Home Office.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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