Discrimination against Roma continued to be a major problem. Romani groups complained that police brutality, including beatings, and harassment, was routine. Both domestic and international media and observers widely reported societal discrimination against Roma. At the end of the year, the parliament enacted a National Roma Strategy aimed at improving the lives of Roma. The NGO and diplomatic communities were widely critical of the strategy for not having measurable goals for progress or adequate funding.
Observers estimated that there were between 1.8 and 2.5 million Roma in the country, approximately 10 percent of the total population. However, the most recent official census, taken in 2002, counted 535,000 Roma, or 3 percent of the population. According to NGOs, earlier government figures were low because many Roma did not reveal their ethnicity, were mistakenly assumed to be Romanian, or lacked any form of identification.
On April 8, following a violent incident between the family of the mayor of Racos, Brasov County, and a group of Roma, four Roma and the mayor’s son needed medical care. Approximately 300-400 ethnic Hungarians prepared to go to an area inhabited by Roma with stones, axes, and other weapons in hand. Significant police forces arrived in time to prevent violent clashes, and police started an investigation of the incident. The city hall subsequently hired a private security company to help defuse tensions in the locality. Both the mayor and the Roma filed complaints. The prosecutor’s decision to send the Roma to court for disturbance of public order was appealed, and a decision was pending at year’s end. Police were investigating the Romani complaint at the end of the year.
Stereotypes and discriminatory language regarding Roma were widespread; journalists and several senior government officials made statements that were viewed as discriminatory by members of the Romani community.
The Senate and the Chamber of Deputies rejected separately, on February 9 and April 5, a draft bill submitted by Chamber of Deputies member Silviu Prigoana that proposed replacing the word “Rom” with “Gypsy” in official documents. The initiative generated heated debates, with a broad range of state institutions, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Agency for Roma, the Ministry of Culture, the Interethnic Relations Department, the government’s Secretariat General, and the CNCD, opposing the bill. However, the Romanian Academy supported the bill, arguing that the term “Gypsy” represented the “correct name of this transnational population.”
On October 17, the CNCD admonished President Basescu for a September statement blaming Finland’s opposition to Romania’s accession to the Schengen area on the “Gypsies,” who “aggressively beg and steal” in Finland.
According to media reports, evictions of Roma continued in Bucharest, Buzau, Cluj Napoca, and other localities during the year. In a report released in June, Amnesty International criticized Romania for failing to observe the right of Roma to decent housing and urged the government to stop the evictions. Amnesty International noted that the alternative housing offered to the evicted Roma did not meet minimum living standards, lacking water, heating, and electricity.
On November 15, the CNCD decided that the forced relocation of 40 Romani families to an area next to a garbage dump in the Pata Rat neighborhood, on the outskirts of Cluj-Napoca, represented a discriminatory act and fined the local authorities 8,000 lei ($2,392). It further recommended that local authorities identify an adequate solution for these Roma. Amnesty International called on the local authorities of Cluj-Napoca and the national government to provide effective remedies and reparations to the victims of the forced eviction.
A similar crisis was averted by domestic and international pressure from Amnesty International, and with the assistance of the Soros Foundation, when the mayor of Baia Mare canceled the removal of four Romani neighborhoods and demolition of the houses there. However, on November 15, the CNCD fined the mayor 6,000 lei ($1,794) for erecting a large concrete wall that separated the housing of Roma and their neighbors in a highly symbolic way. At year’s end the wall remained in place, and negotiations continued concerning alternative housing for the affected Roma.
NGOs reported that Roma were denied access to, or refused service in, many public places. Roma also experienced persistent poverty, poor access to government services, a shortage of employment opportunities, high rates of school attrition, inadequate health care, and pervasive discrimination. According to the Barometer for Social Inclusion 2010, 45 percent of Roma who worked did not have a stable job. NGOs and the media reported that discrimination by teachers and other students against Romani students was a disincentive for Romani children to complete their studies.
Despite an order by the Ministry of Education forbidding segregation of Romani students, there were anecdotal reports of Romani children being placed in the back of classrooms, teachers ignoring Romani students, and unimpeded bullying of Romani students by other schoolchildren. In some communities, authorities placed Romani students in separate classrooms or even in separate schools. The NGO Ovidiu Rom worked to assist and encourage Romani children in the school enrollment process. The NGO also continued its national public awareness campaign “scoala te face mare” (“school makes you great”) to promote the importance of school enrollment, particularly kindergarten enrollment, to Romani parents and children.
A research project by the Impreuna Agency for Community Development conducted in April-May 2010 in 100 schools revealed that Romani children were segregated, received lower quality education, experienced discrimination from non-Romani peers and teachers, and had a higher dropout rate than non-Romani students (6.7 percent of Romani children, compared to 4.3 percent of non-Romani). The main reasons for dropping out of school were material shortages such as lack of school supplies and clothes (44 percent), poor grades (16 percent), lack of parental interest in schooling their children (9 percent), and early marriage (4 percent).
According to a survey conducted by Romani CRISS as part of a project funded by the UN Children’s Fund entitled “Dimensions of Early Childhood Education and School Participation of Roma in Romania,” segregation is more often encountered in primary school, where 64.5 percent of Romani students learned in segregated classes, whereas in secondary school 53 percent were in such classes.
On December 21, Romani CRISS and ECPI filed a complaint with the CNCD regarding the segregation of Romani children in Marie Sklodowska Curie Emergency Hospital for Children in Bucharest.
Romani communities were largely excluded from the administrative and legal systems. According to surveys in 2007 and 2008, between 1.9 and 6 percent of Roma lacked identity cards, compared to 1.5 percent of non-Roma. The lack of identity documents excluded Roma from participating in elections, receiving social benefits, accessing health insurance, securing property documents, and participating in the labor market. Roma were disproportionately unemployed or underemployed. According to the Barometer for Social Inclusion 2010, 60 percent of Romani households lived on less than the minimum wage. The average monthly income of Romani households was 657 lei ($196).
NGO observers noted Romani women faced both gender and ethnic discrimination. Romani women often lacked the training, marketable skills, or relevant work experience to participate in the formal economy. According to a survey by the Association of the Romanian Romani Women, 67 percent of the Romani women polled were housewives and 80.7 percent did not report any professional skills.
The National Agency for Roma is tasked with coordinating public policies for Roma. Romani NGOs, however, criticized the scope of this agency’s responsibilities, noting that they are too broad and often overlap with the activities of other government bodies. During the year, the National Agency for Roma worked on six three-year strategic projects, costing 22.2 million euros ($28.9 million), financed jointly with the EU. The agency completed five of them by year’s end.
In December the government approved a national strategy for the inclusion of the Roma for the period 2012-2020. Romani NGOs and others criticized the strategy for not defining specific measurable benchmarks and goals and failing to identify its funding sources.
To improve relations with the Romani community, police continued to use Romani mediators to facilitate communication between Roma and the authorities and assist in crises.
Within the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police, an advisory board is responsible for managing the relationship between police and the Romani community. During the year the Institute for Public Order Studies within the Ministry of the Administration and Interior conducted six training sessions for more than 300 police officers to promote human rights legislation and the prevention of torture and other forms of mistreatment. In May the general inspectorate also signed a partnership with the Ovidiu Rom Association to implement a project designed to reduce juvenile delinquency and child victimization within the Romani population. Several other projects were implemented throughout the year by local police units in Bucharest, Braila, Dolj, and Mures to facilitate police interaction with the Romani community and to encourage young members of this ethnic group to apply for police jobs.
According to the most recent census conducted in 2002, ethnic Hungarians are the country’s largest ethnic minority with a population of 1.4 million.
In the Moldavia region the Roman Catholic, Hungarian-speaking Csango minority continued to operate government-funded Hungarian-language classes. According to the Association of Csango Hungarians in Romania (AMCM), 1,011 students in 17 schools received Hungarian-language classes during the 2011-2012 academic year. In 25 localities the AMCM sponsored daily educational activities in the Hungarian language. In some other localities, such as Pargaresti, Luizi Calugara, and Tuta, requests for Hungarian language classes were denied. The AMCM continued to complain that there was no Hungarian-speaking school inspector at the School Inspectorate of Bacau County.