Slovak Republic: Situation of Roma, including employment, housing, education, health care and political participation
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||11 July 2012|
|Citation / Document Symbol||SVK104112.E|
|Related Document||République slovaque : information sur la situation des Roms, y compris dans les domaines de l'emploi, du logement, de l'éducation, des soins de santé et de la participation politique|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Slovak Republic: Situation of Roma, including employment, housing, education, health care and political participation, 11 July 2012, SVK104112.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/503601022.html [accessed 30 June 2015]|
Official statistics from the 2001 census indicate that there are approximately 89,000 Roma in the Slovak Republic (CoE 20 Dec. 2011, 5; MRG n.d.). However, sources state that the actual number of Roma may be much higher, with estimates ranging from 350,000 (MRG n.d; US 24 May 2012, 24) and 400,000 (OSF 14 June 2012), to 500,000 (US 24 May 2012, 24; CoE 20 Dec. 2011, 5). The Slovak authorities do not collect or disaggregate data based on ethnicity (US 24 May 2012, 13; AI May 2012, 11; OSF 14 June 2012).
The World Bank estimates that there are 320,000 "socially excluded" Romani people who live in "dire human conditions" (29 Feb. 2012b) and experience "widespread poverty" (29 Feb. 2012a). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a representative from the Open Society Foundation (OSF) in Bratislava estimated that approximately 150,000 Roma live in very poor conditions (14 June 2012). The OSF representative added that most of the Roma living in "the worst conditions" are in Eastern Slovakia, especially in Presov and Kosice, as well as in Central Slovakia (14 June 2012). A household survey conducted in 2011 by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the World Bank, and the European Commission (EC), which interviewed 22,203 Roma and non-Roma living in the same neighbourhoods in 11 EU countries, indicates that 80 percent of surveyed Roma households in Slovakia experience "severe material deprivation" (FRA 23 May 2012, 10, 26).
Various sources state that Roma in the Slovak Republic face "exclusion" (UN 20 Apr. 2011, para. 16; CoE 20 Dec. 2011, 5) and "discrimination" (MRG n.d; US 24 May 2012, 24; OSF 14 June 2012). The OSF representative indicated that discrimination against Roma is "very high" (ibid.). Pooled data from the UNDP, World Bank, and EC survey, and a second 2011 survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), indicates that approximately 42 percent of surveyed Roma over the age of 16 experienced ethnic discrimination in the preceding year (FRA 23 May 2012, 26). The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 states that discrimination against Roma comes from both government and society (24 May 2012, 24).
Sources report on discrimination against Roma in numerous areas, including: the provision of government services (MRG n.d.), political participation (UN 20 Apr. 2011, para. 16), loan practices (US 24 May 2012, 25), access to commercial services (US 24 May 2012, 25), employment (ibid.; MRG n.d.), education (ibid.; UN 20 Apr. 2011, para. 16; US 24 May 2012, 25), health (ibid.; MRG n.d.; UN 20 Apr. 2011, 4), and housing (MRG n.d.; UN 20 Apr. 2011, 4; US 24 May 2012, 25).
Sources indicate that Roma face residential segregation (CoE 20 Dec. 2011, 14; ECRI 26 May 2009, 22). According to the OSF, approximately half of the Roma population lives dispersed among the majority population, while the other half lives in informal, segregated settlements (OSF n.d, 3-4). The OSF representative stated that these settlements are located on the outskirts of cities and are considered to be illegal (ibid. 14 June 2012). According to Amnesty International's (AI) 2012 Annual Report, the settlements also lack access to basic services (2012).
Sources state that many Roma live in poor housing conditions (CoE 20 Dec. 2011, 3; OSF 14 June 2012). The 2011 surveys by the FRA and the UNDP, World Bank, and EC show that 55 percent of Roma surveyed live in households without an indoor toilet, indoor kitchen, indoor shower, and electricity (FRA 2012, 23). In comparison, 16 percent of the non-Roma surveyed, residing in the same area and sharing the same social and economic infrastructure, live in these conditions (ibid.). The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, who visited Slovakia in September 2011, stated that there is an "urgent" need to improve housing conditions, including access to water, electricity, sewage systems, waste removal, and transportation (20 Dec. 2011, 3).
Several sources state that Roma are sometimes forcibly evicted from their settlements (AI 2012; US 24 May 2012, 26; ERRC 16 Feb. 2012). The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) indicates that in July 2011, the homes of 80 Roma persons were demolished in a settlement outside of Kosice, and the authorities did not provide alternative accommodation (16 Feb. 2012). Amnesty International also reports on forced evictions in 2011, including in Kosice and Ziar nad Hronom (2012). In Ziar nad Hronom, the mayor reportedly received the support of 300 other mayors for an initiative to "control the 'anti-social inhabitants'" of their municipalities; thirteen Roma were subsequently evicted from their settlement to another site offering "accommodation in metal containers" (AI 2012). Sources report on the continued threat from local authorities of the eviction of a Roma community in Plavecky Stvrtok (ERRC June 2012; AI 2012; AI 17 June 2010). The Roma community of 90 families (AI 2012), has been told that they must leave because they are living on an active pipeline, but non-Roma families living on the pipeline have not been threatened with eviction (AI 17 June 2010; ERRC June 2012). In October 2011, water to Romani households in the community was reportedly stopped and replaced with a "pay-as-you-go" water tank (AI 2012). According to Amnesty International, the local authorities are not providing alternative housing for the Roma residents (17 June 2010).
In September 2011, the Slovak National Council reportedly proposed that municipal governments be obliged to demolish all unauthorized dwellings whose residents do not have "legal title" to the land, or face a penalty for non-compliance (AI 2012). Due to concerns raised by the Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government of the Slovak Republic for Roma Communities, the Ministry of Construction and Regional Development began amending the proposal in November 2011 (AI 2012). In a 2012 report on the human rights of Roma in Europe, the Council of Europe notes that in central and southeast Europe, "Roma settlements which are sometimes centuries old may lack any form of legal recognition, and title for individual dwellings is similarly missing" (Feb. 2012, 148).
The Council of Europe states that Roma face discrimination in access to housing (Feb. 2012, 138), including social housing (20 Dec. 2011, 3). According to Country Reports 2011, Roma are reportedly blocked from obtaining construction permits or purchasing land by local authorities or groups (24 May 2012, 26). The same report also states that local residents buy property in their neighbourhoods to stop Roma families from moving in (ibid.).
Several sources report that some municipalities have built walls to separate Roma and non-Roma residents (ERRC June 2012; OSF 14 June 2012; CoE Feb. 2012, 142). Country Reports 2011 states that, in 2010, walls were built in several municipalities, mostly in Eastern Slovakia, which local authorities justified as a barrier to reduce "criminality" and "disruption" (24 May 2012, 26). In Presov in 2010, local authorities reportedly put up a locked gate between a Romani community and a non-Romani community, which could only be unlocked by non-Roma and which tripled the distance for Roma to access basic services (ERRC June 2012). Sources have reported on walls erected to separate Roma and non-Roma in the following municipalities: Ostrovany, Michalovce (CoE Feb. 2012, 142), Lomnicka, Trebisov (ibid., ERRC Dec. 2010, 20), and Vrutky (AI 2012). Amnesty International reports that in June 2011, in response to tensions between Roma and non-Roma in Zehra, the Minister of Interior proposed a change to the Act on Municipalities to enable a municipality to "separate into two parts" (2012).
Several sources report on the segregation of Roma children from non-Roma children in education (UN 20 Apr. 2011, para. 17; CVEK 2012, 4; US 24 May 2012, 20). Roma students are often segregated and placed in separate classes or separate schools from non-Roma students (AI Mar. 2012, 5; CoE Feb. 2012, 124). According to Country Reports 2011, some municipal councils have intentionally created Roma-only schools, and some Roma schools are attended by Roma from several surrounding municipalities (US 24 May 2012, 20). Sources indicate that the quality of education offered to segregated Roma children is inferior to the standard education system (AI Mar. 2012, 5; CVEK 2012, 4). According to the Council of Europe, Roma schools are often "materially substandard" and "not adequately staffed" (Feb. 2012, 124).
Several sources indicate that Roma children are disproportionately placed in special needs schools for children with developmental disabilities (US 24 May 2012, 19; AI 2 Sept. 2010; CoE Feb. 2012, 128). Some special needs schools are reported to consist almost entirely of Roma children (US 24 May 2012, 19; AI 24 July 2008). Amnesty International reports that, according to a 2009 survey, 60 percent of students in special schools are Roma, and Roma children make up 85 percent of students in special classes in regular schools (2 Sept. 2010). Sources state that the placement of Roma children in special schools is done without conducting assessments to establish if such placement is necessary (UN 20 Apr. 2011, para. 17), and when tests show that special education is not necessary (MRG n.d.; US 24 May 2012, 19). Country Reports 2011 indicates that the education received from special needs schools does not provide Roma students with sufficient knowledge or certification to acquire higher education (ibid.).
Sources report that Roma students have lower attendance rates than non-Roma students (US 24 May 2012, 19; FRA 23 May 2012, 15). According to the UNDP, World Bank, and EC survey, less than 20 percent of surveyed Roma between the ages of 20 and 24 had completed secondary education, in comparison to 90 percent of their non-Roma counterparts (ibid.).
According to the Center for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture (Centrum pre výskum etnicity a kultúry, CVEK), civil associations are able to legally challenge educational segregation (2012, 5). Sources indicate that the Center for Civil and Human Rights, a Slovak NGO, took a primary school in Sarisske Michal'any, Presov, to court for teaching Roma children in separate classrooms (CVEK 2012, 5; AI and Poradna 9 Jan. 2012). In December 2011, the judge found that this was an act of discrimination and ruled that the school must desegregate the classes (ibid.; CVEK 2012, 5); a decision the school is appealing (ibid.). However, according to CVEK, even if parents can receive legal assistance to take schools to court, they fear that their children will suffer negative consequences at school because of their legal action (ibid.).
Sources state that in August 2010, the government introduced a program to end the segregation of Romani children in schools (US 24 May 2012, 20; AI Mar. 2012, 5). However, Amnesty International indicated in March 2012 that it had not yet been implemented (ibid.). Discrimination and segregation in education are prohibited by law; specifically, by the 2008 Schools Act (CoE Feb. 2012, 128; AI May 2012, 6), and the Anti-discrimination Act (ibid.; CVEK 2012, 4). According to Amnesty International, the Slovak government claims that the legislation has solved the problem of segregation, and that segregation is not a "'crucial problem'" (Mar. 2012, 6, 13). However, sources indicate that the legislation is not adequately enforced (AI Mar. 2012, 6, 8; CVEK 2012, 4). The Slovak government has also proposed to establish boarding schools for Roma children as a strategy for increasing their integration into society (Times Educational Supplement 22 June 2012; ERRC 10 Mar. 2010; AI 9 Mar. 2010).
The overall unemployment rate in the Slovak Republic is 13.5 percent (Slovak Republic 2 Mar. 2012). The household surveys by the FRA and the UNDP, World Bank, and EC indicate that less than 30 percent of surveyed Roma between the ages of 20 and 64 had paid employment (excluding self-employment), while approximately 35 percent stated that they were unemployed (FRA 23 May 2012, 16-17). Various sources report estimates on the rate of Roma unemployment in some areas as between 80 and 90 percent (US 24 May 2012, 25), 95 percent (MRG n.d.), and 100 percent in some parts of Eastern Slovakia (OSF 14 June 2012). According to CVEK, Roma unemployment is due to low levels of education caused by segregation in schools, as well as labour market discrimination (2012, 7). A UNDP study notes that Roma unemployment is also very common among Roma with higher education (UN 2010).
Several sources indicate that Roma face discrimination in the job market (OSF 14 June 2012; CoE Feb. 2012, 159; US 24 May 2012, 25). According to Country Reports 2011, some employers refuse to hire Roma people (ibid.). The household surveys by the FRA and the UNDP, World Bank, and EC indicate that approximately 42 percent of Roma over the age of 16 said that they had experienced ethnic discrimination when looking for work in the preceding 5 years (FRA 23 May 2012, 19). The OSF representative states that some Roma who complete their studies are unable to find work due to their Roma background (14 June 2012).
According to the OSF, the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family have implemented national employment programs for Roma that consist of vocational training, subsidized employment and public works projects; however, no data is available on the number of Roma who have benefitted from these programs (n.d., 5). According to the OSF representative, NGOs have implemented several programs to increase Roma employment, but the government has not been involved in sustaining or formalizing these programs (14 June 2012).
5. Health Care
The OSF reports that many Roma have a "problematic" state of health due to the inaccessibility or low accessibility of health services (n.d., 1). According to the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), the health of Roma people is much worse than that of non-Roma and the infant mortality rate is twice as high (26 May 2009, 24).
According to Country Reports 2011, there is "widespread discrimination" against Roma in healthcare (US 24 May 2012, 25). Country Reports 2011 also reports on the "persistent" segregation of Romani women in maternity wards in several Eastern Slovakian hospitals (ibid., 26). Hospitals reportedly indicated that Roma women were placed in different rooms and not allowed to use bathrooms for non-Roma patients due to their different levels of hygiene (ibid.).
6. Political Participation and Political Discourse
Freedom House notes the low representation of Roma in "all levels of administration and self-governments" (2012). Country Reports 2011 states that Roma are "consistently underrepresented in government service" but that there is some Roma representation at the local and regional levels (US 24 May 2012, 13). Country Reports 2011 also indicates that because it is illegal to disaggregate data by ethnicity, it is not possible to identify the exact number of minorities in government (ibid.). According to Freedom House, the low representation of Roma in government is due to their social marginalization, low average education level, the lack of cooperation between non-Roma and Roma organizations, and the shortage of Roma leaders (2012). The OSF representative also noted that there is a lack of coordination and cooperation among Roma leaders themselves (14 July 2012).
In March 2012, the first Roma politician was elected to the Slovak National Council (CVEK 2012, 2). He expressed the opinion that Romani candidates are often placed on political parties' candidates' lists, but that they are posted in non-electable places, possibly because Roma candidates in high profile races would alienate non-Roma voters (ibid., 3). In November 2010, 102 Roma are reported to have been elected as councillors and 22 Roma were elected as mayors (Romea.cz 28 Nov. 2011). The UN also reported in 2011 on the election of the first Roma woman town mayor (20 Apr. 2011, 4).
Sources report on anti-Roma sentiments in political discourse (US 24 May 2012, 26; COE 20 Dec. 2011, 2). Country Reports 2011 indicates that anti-Roma discourse includes derogatory remarks by public officials at all levels and the creation of "populist" policies that disadvantage Roma (US 24 May 2012, 27). Sources report of anti-Roma election materials used by political parties (OSF n.d., 10; ERRC 16 Feb. 2012). Sources report that in the lead-up to the March 2012 parliamentary elections, the Slovak National Party put up billboards displaying negative stereotypes about Roma and promoting the party's anti-Roma views (ibid.; OSF n.d., 10). The ERRC also reports that the right-wing party Ludova Strana Nase Slovensko (People's Party Our Slovakia), often refers to "gypsy criminality" (ERRC 4 Oct. 2010; ibid. 16 Feb. 2012). According to the OSF representative, during the March 2012 elections, political parties did not want to discuss the Roma as this would amount to "political suicide" (14 June 2012).
7. Government Initiatives
The OSF representative stated that the Slovak Republic is "a signatory to many [anti-discrimination] agreements and legal frameworks, and has a constitution that prohibits ethnic discrimination" (14 June 2012). Additionally, the Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government of the Slovak Republic for Roma Communities supervises and supports the implementation of governmental policy on Roma issues (US 24 May 2012, 27; CoE 20 Dec. 2011, 6).
The National Roma Integration Strategy up to 2020 was adopted by the government in January 2012, in accordance with its obligations as a member of the EU, and focuses on four main areas: education, employment, healthcare, and housing (UN 24 May 2012). According to the government, the goals of the strategy are "to halt the segregation of Roma communities; to facilitate a significant positive turn in the social inclusion of Roma communities; to foster non-discrimination; and to change the attitude of the majority population toward the Roma minority" (Slovak Republic ). Sources indicate that Roma communities were consulted throughout the development process of the strategy (OSF 14 June 2012; UN 24 May 2012). According to the OSF representative, the integration strategy is a "great" policy with "concrete measures, financial commitments, and time frames" (14 June 2012). According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the strategy includes a regular monitoring mechanism (UN 24 May 2012). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, an official at the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Ottawa indicated that as a member of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015, the Slovak Republic regularly submits progress reports (Slovak Republic 13 June 2012).
The OSF representative stated that ministries in the Slovak Republic have started implementing the new strategy, but their lack of communication with each other has resulted in the duplication of efforts (OSF 14 June 2012). She provided the example of improving Roma employment, which requires both education and employment initiatives, as well as the need for different ministries to work together (ibid.). The OSF representative added that NGOs are calling for more transparency and cooperation in the implementation process (ibid.).
According to the Council of Europe, it is "difficult to assess the extent to which progress on the ground has been made" on Roma inclusion, due to the lack of ethnically disaggregated statistics (20 Dec. 2011, 6). Similarly, the OSF representative also noted that in order to implement the strategy effectively, relevant statistics [on ethnicity] are necessary (14 June 2012).
Country Reports 2011 states that the government has "made only limited progress on its national minority strategy" (US 24 May 2012, 27). The Council of Europe indicates that some local authorities have actively attempted to improve Roma inclusion, while others have either not worked towards this goal, or, in the case of Plavecky Stvrtok and others, have worked against it (20 Dec. 2011, 6).
Sources report that a sum of 200 million Euros [C$ 251,216,970 (XE 9 July 2012)], which includes European Union funds, has been allocated to addressing Roma issues (US 24 May 2012, 27; CoE 20 Dec. 2011, 6). However, Country Reports 2011 reports that NGOs have criticized the approach used and have called into question the successful distribution of the funds (US 24 May 2012, 27). The Council of Europe also states that the amount of the allocated money that has been spent on Roma inclusion is "unclear" (20 Dec. 2011, 6).
Country Reports 2011 states that the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Family placed "specially trained social workers" in Roma settlements to "advocate the importance of education and preventative health care" (US 24 May 2012, 27). The Slovak Republic also has a program called the "zero year" for "socially disadvantaged communities," which provides education to children "who have reached the physical age of six years, have not reached a schooling capacity, come from [a] socially disadvantaged environment and due to the social environment are not expected to cope with the syllabus of the first grade of elementary school" (Slovak Republic , 26). According to the government, the "zero year" initiative provides an opportunity for students to socially and cognitively catch up with their peers, and provides students with lunches, supplies, and an allowance to encourage school attendance (ibid.). However, according to a monitoring report by the Open Society Institute's EU Monitoring and Advocacy Program, the "zero year" does not address the integration or enrolment of Roma students, and is designed for "pupils with disabilities" (Feb. 2009, 10). The Slovak Republic has also created a working group for issues of inclusive education under the Government Council for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality (CoE 20 Dec. 2011, 30). This working group brings together government, human rights institutions, and NGOs, and aims to identify the main problems in achieving desegregation in schools and work towards an inclusive education system (ibid.). However, the ECRI noted in March 2012 that this working group has not yet been successful, as the educational situation for Roma remained "unchanged" (21 Mar. 2012).
Slovakia's Anti-Discrimination Act, which was adopted in 2004 (AI Mar. 2012, 7; CVEK 2012, 4), prohibits direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of race, nationality, ethnic origin, among others, in the fields of education, social security, employment, healthcare, and access to goods and services (AI Mar. 2012, 7). According to the Council of Europe, the Act is "largely under-implemented" due to inadequate awareness of discrimination and of the Act among the legal profession, lengthy court proceedings, and a "reported reluctance to [grant] meaningful compensation" (20 Dec. 2011, 7). According to Amnesty International, the Slovak National Center for Human Rights, a semi-independent human rights body (US 24 May 2012, 16), is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Anti-Discrimination Act, but does not have the power to impose sanctions (AI Mar. 2012, 7). The Council of Europe notes that the National Center is also mandated to assist in the implementation of the Act, but plays a "limited role" (20 Dec. 2011, 7).
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.
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Amnesty International and the Center for Civil and Human Rights (Poradna). 9 January 2012. "Slovak Court Rules Against Segregation in Education."
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_____. 20 December 2011. Thomas Hammarberg. Report by Thomas Hammarberg - Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Following His Visit to Slovakia From 26 to 27 September 2011. CommDH(2011)42.
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Additional Sources Consulted
Oral Sources: Attempts to contact the European Roma Rights Centre, three lawyers in Kosice, a lawyer in Proprad, the Slovak Bar Association, and the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights were unsuccessful.
Internet sites, including: Al Jazeera; Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe; Hampshire College-Population and Development Program; International Monetary Fund; International Organization for Migration; Slovak Republic — Government Office, Legal Aid Centre, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, Statistical Office; Slovak National Centre for Human Rights; Slovstat; Stop Torture in Health Care.