Europe has failed its Roma minority, says FRA director O’Flaherty

December 1, 2016


Widespread deprivation is destroying Roma lives. Families are living excluded from society in shocking conditions, while children with little education face bleak prospects, a new report from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) shows. The report analyses the gaps in Roma inclusion around the EU to guide Member States seeking to improve their integration policies.

“Our manifest inability in Europe to honour the human rights of our Roma communities is unacceptable. The levels of deprivation, marginalisation, and discrimination of Europe’s largest minority is a grave failure of law and policy in the EU and its Member States,” says FRA director Michael O’Flaherty“The publication of these findings provides an opportunity to galvanise policy makers into action and focus resources on redressing this intolerable situation.”

The Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II): Roma – selected findings report shows that:

  • 80% of Roma interviewed are at risk of poverty compared with an EU average of 17%. 30% live in households with no tap water and 46% have no indoor toilet, shower or bathroom.
  • 30% of Roma children live in households where someone went to bed hungry at least once in the previous month.
  • 53% of young Roma children attend early childhood education, often less than half the proportion of children their age from the general population in the same country.
  • Only 30% of the Roma surveyed are in paid work, compared with the average EU employment rate for 2015 of 70%.
  • 41% of Roma feel they have been discriminated against over the past 5 years in everyday situations such as looking for work, at work, housing, health and education.
  • 82% of Roma are unaware of organisations offering support to victims of discrimination.

The survey findings indicate that despite Member States’ efforts, they are still falling short of most of their integration targets, a key element of the EU’s 2011 National Roma Integration Strategies Framework. The results underline the need for:

  • early childhood learning support and integrated schooling
  • better employment opportunities and greater social protection to eradicate poverty
  • targeted education and training to specifically help Roma youths and Roma women in their transition from primary to secondary education, and thereafter find work.

The report is based on a survey that collected information in nine EU Member States, derived from nearly 8,000 face-to-face interviews with Roma. It is part of the Agency’s Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS II), which collected data on immigrants and ethnic minorities’ discrimination and victimisation experiences and income and living conditions in all 28 EU Member States.

A lack of political will

A lack of political will means the plight of Europe’s Roma has not improved since the last survey in 2011.

FRA director Michael O’Flaherty told EUrologus blog that, in comparison to the report prepared in 2011, the situation had improved in very few Member States, and Hungary is not among them.  In Slovakia, for example, they have easier access to education than before, while in the Czech Republic their living conditions have improved somewhat.  O’Flaherty believes the Roma situation is a question of human rights for everyone, because marginalization, discrimination and deprivation kill the body.


With regard to Hungary, the survey cites the following:

  • Three-quarters of Hungary’s about 800,000 Roma live in poverty
  • 32 percent have difficulty and 48 percent have great difficulty making ends meet on what they earn
  • 11 percent of Roma households report that at least one member of their household goes to bed hungry two or three times a month, and 6 percent report that this happens more than four times a month.

On the other hand, Hungary’s Roma employment rate is the second-highest in the EU after Greece, with 54 percent of Roma men and 33 percent of Roma women having paid work.  Roma children living in Hungary have the second-highest rate of kindergarten attendance (boys 92 percent, girls 90 percent) after Spain.  Hungary ranks similarly for public school attendance: 98-99 percent of Roma children attend.