1. Roma have a history of migration.
They have often had to migrate to survive in a hostile world. Being confronted
with persecution, discrimination and lack of understanding, since
arriving in Europe centuries ago, Roma have been forced to regularly
change domicile, looking for a place where they can settle without
being immediately pushed away. This necessity is unfortunately still
there today. In some cases there is even a need for Roma to move
within or from Europe in order to seek asylum from persecution.
2. Roma also travel for commercial reasons, following markets,
fairs or the agricultural seasons or in order to maintain relations
with family that might be dispersed as far apart as Norway, Spain,
Ireland or the Ukraine. Due to assimilation policies and the vanishing
of traditional Roma forms of trade, today only an estimated 10% of
Roma travel on a regular basis, predominantly in western Europe.
Thus, only a small percentage can be said to lead a non-sedentary
life. This, however, has not changed the Roma mindset with regard
to travel. For many Roma, travel is a subjective as well as an objective
reality, a common spirit, a state of mind.
3. The committee welcomes the strong and unequivocal report of
the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the constructive
proposals that are put forward. The committee subscribes to the conclusions
of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, including that
monitoring of implementation at local level and a holistic and concerted
approach is necessary to improve the situation of Roma, and that enhanced
access to housing and education for Roma is of crucial importance.
4. The committee notes that in its report, the Committee on Legal
Affairs and Human Rights has explicitly left out the field of Roma
migration and asylum, in view of the report on this topic to be
prepared by the committee (see Motion for a recommendation “Roma
asylum seekers in Council of Europe member states”, Doc. 12073
5. In its report, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
rightly focuses on the deplorable and unacceptable outburst of violence
against Roma in some Council of Europe member states and also addresses some
of the causes of these tragic events. An effect of the pogroms have
been that many Roma have been forced, in a climate of fear, to flee
to other countries in order to seek asylum there.
6. When fleeing from one EU member state to another, Roma asylum
seekers are confronted by EU legislation which provides that in
asylum matters, all EU member states shall be considered “safe countries
of origin” in respect of each other. Consequently, a citizen of
one EU member state may as a rule not be granted refugee protection,
or complementary protection, in another EU member state, save for
in certain exceptional circumstances.
7. Whereas, for example, Roma from Bulgaria, Hungary or Romania
have for this reason been refused asylum in EU countries, Roma from
the Czech Republic and Hungary have sought and been granted asylum in
Canada. In 2008, 860 Roma from the Czech Republic applied for asylum
in Canada. Some 40% of them were granted refugee status. In 2009,
applications lodged by Czech Roma in Canada exceeded 1 000. Also around
1 000 Hungarian Roma have sought protection in Canada during 2008
and 2009. In 2009, the Canadian authorities imposed visa requirements
for Czech citizens, and have recently indicated that they will consider
doing so also in respect of Hungarian citizens.
8. For many Roma who are EU citizens, to simply use their right
to movement within the EU in order to escape violence and threat
of violence is not an option. The EU Citizens Directive sets out
that every EU citizen has the right to reside in any EU member state
during a period of three months without any other requirement than
a valid passport. For longer periods of stay, the person concerned
must be able to show that he or she has certain financial resources
or employment. A majority of Roma asylum seekers cannot fulfil these requirements.
9. In view of the EU legislation described above, and the fact
that violence against Roma has largely occurred in EU member states,
it is urgently required that the EU takes measures to address the
situation, in terms both of law and, if under its competence and
mindful of the principle of subsidiarity, of fact.
10. Roma who are forced to flee their home country therefore find
themselves in a state of limbo with the options being to seek asylum
in a country outside the EU, to become irregular migrants, or to
go back and face persecution.
11. Furthermore, a pressing issue that needs to be addressed is
the return of Roma refugees to Kosovo. There
are indications that many thousands of Roma are awaiting return
to Kosovo from western European countries that are in the process
of concluding readmission agreements with Kosovo. Following his visit
to Kosovo on 11 to 13 February 2010, the Council of Europe Commissioner
for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, called on European states to
stop the forced returns until Kosovo is able to provide adequate living
conditions, health care, schooling, social services and employment.
12. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights highlights
the fact that Roma often lack personal documents. This effectively
deprives Roma of access to social benefits and property. This problem
effects many Roma migrants and returnees.
13. In all the problematic fields to which the Committee on Legal
Affairs and Human Rights draws attention, Roma that are at the same
time migrants face additional difficulties due to their possible
lack of citizenship and language skills and the general marginalisation
that migrants often face. This issue remains, whether the Roma concerned
are regular or irregular migrants, refugees or asylum seekers. In
all the social dimensions – housing, health care, employment and
education – member states should be urged to specifically consider
the needs of Roma migrants.
14. One of the important objectives of the Council of Europe is
to promote diversity in society. This aim should be kept in mind
when trying to integrate Roma and Roma migrants. Roma migrants should
be allowed to exercise and develop their culture, language and lifestyle.
This implies a need for knowledge, flexibility and goodwill on the
part of the responsible authorities.
15. The committee would finally like to draw attention to an exemplary
project in Turkey honouring the Roma. The Turkish Government invited
representatives of the Roma community to face-to-face talks with
the State Minister Faruk Celik, identifying the haves and wants
of the Roma community to be further addressed. Based on this and
further genuine consultations, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, launched the project. On 14 March 2010, he addressed
15 000 Roma from all around Turkey invited to Istanbul to a festive gathering
in a stadium. There was much joy and mutual appreciation during
the festive event. The aim is to radically improve the conditions
for Roma in Turkey and to change the way the public relate to Roma.
The project will include measures of positive action aimed at enhancing
the opportunities of Roma, such as free transport to schools, special
support for studies, and improving housing conditions as well as
measures to eradicate discrimination against the Roma. This is a
unique project in Europe.
16. Whilst emphasising its support for the draft recommendation
tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, the Committee
on Migration, Refugees and Population proposes some amendments to
the draft resolution.