Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Poland : Roma

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Poland : Roma, 2008, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
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.


According to the 2002 census there are 12,731 Roma in Poland. The actual figure is thought to be considerably higher, perhaps reaching 50-60,000.

Historical context

During World War II, the Nazi regime targeted Roma for extermination. Thousands of Roma in Poland, along with tens of thousands from throughout German-occupied Europe were sent to their deaths at camps including Auschwitz-Birkenau, near Krakow.

During the communist period, Roma were viewed as social misfits and, because of their lifestyle, politically difficult to control, and thus subjected to coercive integration. According to figures issued by the communist authorities, 25 per cent of them responded to offers of housing and employment by becoming sedentary. Attempts were made to set up cooperative workshops based on such traditional skills as copper-fabrication.

During the 1980s hundreds of Roma were deprived of Polish citizenship and expelled to Sweden and Denmark. After 1989, like other minorities in Poland, Roma began to reassert their identity. Four Roma organizations were founded in Tarnów, Olsztyn, Andrychów and Zyrardów provinces, along with the nationwide Association of Roma in Poland.

In 1990 and 1991, anti-Roma disturbances took place in Kielce and Mtawa, towns with significant Roma populations. Subsequent heavy prison sentences and fines imposed on the rioters gave the local Roma population some reassurance. Also during 1991, an extreme neo-fascist organization, the Polish National Front, distributed posters in several cities inciting acts of violence against Roma and demanding their expulsion from the country. These relatively isolated incidents, although condemned by the authorities, indicated the persistence of negative attitudes towards Roma and added to their sense of insecurity. Throughout the 1990s, Roma rights advocates pointed to the failure of the state to adequately prosecute violence against Roma.

Current issues

In June 2005, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) criticized Poland for lax investigation and prosecution of violent attacks on Roma. Amidst widespread discrimination, Roma unemployment stands at around 90 per cent, and in 2006, the Association of Roma claimed that half of all Roma children were not enrolled in schools, in part because they and their families feared coerced assimilation.

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