Millions of EU's Roma face discrimination, poverty, report says


Millions of citizens in the European Union battle discrimination and poverty from birth because they are Roma, according to a report released Tuesday from an EU rights agency.

A new report from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) shows that EU member states fail in their efforts to integrate the minority group, as 80 percent of Europe's Roma are at risk of poverty.

The Roma people, also known as Gypsies or Travellers, are an ethnic minority in Europe that often face prejudice and social exclusion. Amid calls on its 28 member states to better integrate the bloc's estimated 6 million Roma, national integration policies seems to be falling short.

About 80 percent of almost 34,000 Roma, or Gypsies, surveyed in nine EU nations over six months ending in April, live below the poverty level. Every third Roma child goes to bed hungry at least once a month, says the report, while 50 percent between 6 and 24 do not attend school.

"Our manifest inability in Europe to honor the human rights of our Roma communities is unacceptable. The level of deprivation, marginalization, 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 galvanize policy makers into action and focus resources on redressing this intolerable situation."

The European Union has put an emphasis on improving Roma lives after centuries of discrimination, climaxing in the Holocaust that led to the deaths of about half a million Roma, and Tuesday's report notes improvement in some categories since the last survey in 2011. But it warns of continuing "widespread deprivation ... destroys Roma lives" in the countries where most of the EU's estimated 6 million Roma live: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Spain, Croatia, Hungary, Portugal and Romania and Slovakia.

According to the survey, 30 percent live in households with no tap water and 46 percent have no indoor toilet, shower or bathroom, revealing worsening humanitarian conditions. Some 30 percent of Roma children live in households where someone went to bed hungry at least once in the previous month.

The report is based on interviews with nearly 8,000 self-identifying Roma in nine EU member states. The FRA, which engages local communities in an ongoing Roma inclusion project, also surveyed Roma in 2008 and 2011.

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