Integrating EU's minority Roma community

Integrating EU's minority Roma community
By Damon Embling
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International Roma Day shines light on social inclusion and poverty issues


Coming together in Brussels to mark International Roma Day. Young Roma people, from several European countries, have been at an activism workshop - with their hearts set on eliminating poverty and social exclusion which they say have been an issue for centuries.

"Promoting equality and fighting discrimination is for me very important issue, especially in institutions like the European Parliament where we, as civil society (members) and activists, can really tell them how the everyday life looks like for Roma," said Saska DImic, 20, a student from Austria with Serbian Romani ancestry.

According to the latest report from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, 80 percent of the minority Roma are at risk of poverty; 3 in 4 adults are without paid work; and half of children are not attending early schooling.

Roma are the EU's biggest ethnic minority, with a population of around six million.

We spoke to a street worker in the Anderlecht neighbourhood of Brussels about the challenges facing Roma.

"Often (people) say schooling is the biggest problem for them but very often we see these people living in caravans, they have to move every third week. Why... because they have no settling places for them," commented Biser Alekov, who has Bulgarian Romani ancestry.

Alongside community celebrations, Roma Week at the European Parliament will bring debates on boosting inclusion of the Roma community.

One socialist MEP, with Romani ancestry, put forward proposals which were approved last year.

"It is also a responsibility of the political parties to go out and reach out to the Roma population, not only when it is election time to get votes, but also to engage them as campaigners and as candidates to run for the elections," said Soraya Post.

Those working at the grassroots, want to see more funds for advocacy work and to promote inclusion, including across the media landscape and cultural platforms.

"Instead of investing so much in making Roma to adapt, we should actually invest in the majority of society to open up, to have more inclusivity, to open their hearts and minds basically to have have our societies together," said Gabriela Hrabanova, Executive Director of the ERGO Network.

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