Romania: claims over abuse of mentally ill people puts spotlight on EC's funding millions

Romania: claims over abuse of mentally ill people puts spotlight on EC's funding millions
By Chris Harris
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A probe has been launched amid allegations that abuse of vulnerable people in Romanian institutions is at ‘crisis levels’.

Mentally ill people are being force fed, deprived of light and subjected to physical and mental violence, according to a disability charity.

The Mental Disability Advocacy Center (MDAC) has slammed the European Commission for allegedly providing millions of euros of funding to such institutions.

The European Commission (EC) said it had begun an investigation into the allegations, but said it had not been approached about any human rights breaches.

Euronews contacted the Romanian government for comment, but it has not responded. A minister told Al Jazeera, who detailed the alleged abuses in its People and Power series, he was outraged and that inspectors would be sent to investigate.

Al Jazeera’s report comes after the Centre for Legal Resources published a report on its monitoring visits to Romanian institutions. It said it had observed situations which amount to ‘torture’ and ‘inhuman and degrading treatments’.

MDAC says EC funding of at least 24 million euros was propping up 50 residential institutions in Romania. It said thousands of people with disabilities were being ‘warehoused’ in such institutions, segregated from society and subjected to inhumane conditions.

Oliver Lewis, executive director of MDAC, said: “Dumping people with disabilities in institutions is a gross human rights violation.

“Conditions inside these institutions are often deplorable. Force feeding, light deprivation, physical and mental violence and deaths have all been uncovered in numerous institutions across Romania. Many have been funded by the European Commission.”

MDAC has also called on the EC to close all institutions that segregate disabled people from society.

Shirin Wheeler, an EC spokeswoman for regional policy, said it would shift its funding focus towards initiatives which encourage independent living.

She added: “It’s important to stress also that in the next funding period, 2014-2020, de-institutionalisation will be the main focus and even a condition for funding . No big, traditional institutions will receive money in the future .

“Regarding individual projects we have been approached by no NGO so far alleging specific projects supported by EU funds are involved in breaches of human rights.

“But following this media report we have reacted immediately by asking various departments of the Commission to investigate the project in question.”

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