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CoE rights chief calls for action on Roma
Michael O'Flaherty (Pic: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe)

05 Apr 2024 / human rights Print

CoE rights chief calls for action on Roma

The Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights has called for “firm action” to deal with the “shocking” discrimination experienced by Roma and Travellers in Europe.

Irish lawyer Michael O’Flaherty was speaking today (5 April) ahead of International Roma Day on 8 April.

O’Flaherty was elected to the post in January after a vote by the body’s parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg.

‘Embedded prejudice’

“There are some 10-12 million Roma and Travellers living on our continent. Many of them face discrimination in all fields of life, from segregation and exclusion in housing and education to multiple barriers when accessing work, healthcare, and goods and services, leading to their marginalisation and to poverty,” he stated.

The commissioner said that what he described as the “pervasive discrimination and embedded prejudice” against Roma and Travellers were the result of centuries of violence, stigmatisation and inequality.

“The scapegoating of Roma in times of crisis is a recurrent phenomenon that was highlighted again recently in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which showed a surge in hate speech targeting Roma communities across Europe,” O’Flaherty continued.

‘Zero-tolerance’ policy

He urged the council’s 46 member states to make the protection of the human rights of Roma and Travellers “a top priority”.

O’Flaherty called on politicians to adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards hate speech against Roma, and for the full implementation of Roma- and Traveller-related judgments from the European Court of Human Rights.

He also urged states to design rights-based policies at local, regional, and national levels and adequately implement them to combat anti-gypsyism, discrimination, and the marginalisation of Roma.

The commissioner called on member states to address a “persisting” lack of data about Roma.

“Finally, we must recognise, promote and, above all, celebrate Roma culture in all its diversity and Roma contributions to our societies not only on International Roma Day, but every day,” he concluded.

“Tools for raising awareness among the general population and teaching in schools about Roma culture, history and language should be developed and effectively implemented.”

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland