Segregation of Roma Children in Education: Addressing Structural Discrimination through the Race Equality Directive
Author: Lilla Farkas
Thematic report by the European network of legal experts in the non-discrimination field
Discrimination against Roma – a truly European minority present in almost all EU Member States – and in particular against approximately three million Roma children in schools across the EU is one of the most pressing political, social and human rights issues we need to tackle.
What distinguishes Roma from other protected racial or ethnic minority groups in Europe is the extent of the poverty and deprivation the suffer, as well as the actual proportion of this group living in extreme poverty. This manifests itself in Roma children often going to school unfed and returning to a home without a computer or even a desk. Many Roma live in segregated settlements that one would more readily associate with a developing country than the European Union.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination described “the place of the Roma communities among those most disadvantaged and most subject to discrimination in the contemporary world”.
This report argues that the Racial Equality Directive (the RED) provides a uniquely high level of protection from structural discrimination in education and that it may become an effective tool to fight against it in domestic courts as well as before the European Court of Justice (ECJ). As a key to ensuring the highest level of protection and thus to re-thinking the RED’s individual justice model it calls for a unified European definition of Roma as a dual racial and ethnic minority. It proposes to create a multi-faceted definition for Roma that can capture all of their relevant social attributes.