Council of Europe: Hungary needs to do more to fight discrimination against Roma
Budapest, September 19 (MTI) – Most national minority representatives have reported an overall favourable situation in Hungary but there are several issues that need to be resolved, such as systemic discrimination and inequality in all fields of life suffered by the Roma, the Council of Europe (CoE) advisory committee on the framework convention for the protection of national minorities said in its latest report.
The nearly 50-page report highlighted the xenophobic and intolerant attitudes that persist within Hungarian society, in particular against the Roma, despite the authorities’ efforts. There have been reports of physical attacks against the Roma in recent years and extremist political movements and parties continue to spread prejudice and hate speech against the Roma, the report added.
Roma continue to suffer systemic discrimination and inequality in all fields of life including housing, employment, education, access to health and participation in social and political life, the committee said in its opinion on Hungary. Additionally, according to evidence collected by the authorities, segregation of Roma school children has become more widespread in recent years. Discrimination of Roma children has deepened, in particular as a result of the approach of “benevolent segregation” promoted by the authorities by which Roma children are expected to “catch up” in separate Roma classes before their supposed inclusion in mainstream education, the report added.
At the same time, the report stated that the socio-economic situation of most national minorities living in Hungary does not diverge from the majority population.
“With the exception of the Roma, persons belonging to various ethnic groups making up the Hungarian society are well integrated and participate fully in the economic, social and cultural life,” it said.
Efforts of the authorities to promote minority cultures and education, together with particular steps taken to strengthen representation of national minorities in parliament and through the national minority self-governments, are widely recognised and appreciated, the report said. Although the legislation provides a high level of protection of minority languages, in practice they are very rarely used in public affairs, it added.
The CoE included in the report recommendations to the Hungarian authorities, such as to improve, in close consultation with Roma representatives, living conditions, access to health services, and employment of the Roma; take necessary measures, as a matter of urgency and without further delay, to end practices that lead to continued segregation of Roma children at school and redouble efforts to remedy other shortcomings faced by Roma children in the field of education; ensure that Roma children have equal opportunities for access to all levels of quality education, in particular by preventing placement in “catching-up classes”; take decisive measures to prevent children from being wrongfully placed in special schools.
Additionally, it should be ensured that the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights is granted all the support needed to continue carrying out his role effectively, particularly as regards the enforcement of recommendations with a view to strengthening the Commissioner’s competences, the report said.
The report also highlighted the importance of promoting tolerance and respectful attitudes amongst the majority population; bolster efforts to combat manifestations of intolerance, racism, xenophobia and hate speech present in Hungarian society including in the media and the political arena.
The Hungarian authorities have sent their comments in response, stating that the Hungarian government does everything in order to strengthen tolerance and respectful attitudes towards minorities within the majority population.
“The autochthonous minorities living in Hungary feel comfortable in Hungary; the beneficial direction of legislation and of national minority policy, the favourable development of the social climate is also confirmed by the fact that during past years, the number and ratio within the population of those declaring their nationality identity has started to increase,” the government’s comments showed.
In recent years, significant measures have been taken to prevent Roma children from being wrongfully placed in special schools and as a result of these measures, the ratio of schoolchildren with mild intellectual disability has decreased from 2.1 percent in 2005 to 1.5 percent in 2014, the government added.