Discrimination against Roma continued to be a major problem. Romani groups complained that police brutality, including beatings, and harassment were routine. Both domestic and international media and observers widely reported societal discrimination against Roma.
Observers estimated that there were between 1.8 and 2.5 million Roma in the country, constituting approximately 10 percent of the total population. However, the preliminary results of the most recent official census, taken in fall 2011, counted 619,000 Roma, or 3.2 percent of the population.
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 CNCD fined some individuals as a result. Anti-Roma banners, chants, and songs, particularly at large televised sporting events, were prevalent and widespread.
According to media reports, evictions of Roma continued in Baia Mare, Bucharest, Sibiu, Constanta, Craiova, and other localities during the year.
On May 11 and June 1, during the local election campaign, the mayor of Baia Mare, Catalin Chereches, moved over 90 Romani families living in improvised dwellings in the Craica neighborhood to abandoned commercial buildings belonging to the defunct Cuprom chemical factory. Shortly after the move, many of the Roma, most of them children, became ill, reportedly from the chemical substances left in the building. Romani CRISS and other NGOs wrote a letter of protest, and the European Commission and two foreign embassies criticized the move in an open letter. The mayor responded in a letter sent to central government institutions, embassies, and the media, claiming that the scandal over the forced move of the Roma families had been orchestrated by "false leaders of the Romani community" who were driven by political, ethnic, and financial interests. A report by the local prefect’s office indicated that the mayor did not have the required approval to use the buildings as dwellings, an appropriate environmental certificate, or other necessary authorizations. Following a complaint filed by the National Roma Agency against Chereches, the CNCD ruled on July 25 that the mayor’s actions constituted an act of discrimination. The CNCD decided to admonish the mayor for the action, ask that he renovate the buildings, and request that he obtain the required legal permits.
Despite the CNCD’s action, on September 11, Mayor Chereches started to evict Romani inhabitants from the Pirita neighborhood, demolishing approximately two thirds of the 45 improvised dwellings erected by Roma there. The mayor claimed that he only evicted those Roma who had arrived in the previous few months. Many of the homes were rebuilt soon after their demolition.
NGOs reported that Roma were denied access to, or refused service in, many public places. Roma also experienced poor access to government services, a shortage of employment opportunities, high rates of school attrition, inadequate health care, and pervasive discrimination. 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. On February 16, Romani CRISS and the legal representatives of two Romani students filed complaints with the CNCD and the court in Caracal against the Ionita Asan High School for segregating Roma on ethnic and social class criteria in the first grade of the primary school. In December the CNCD decided that this represented discrimination and fined the high school and the Olt County School Inspectorate 2,000 lei each ($595) and urged the latter to desegregate the students.
Romani communities were largely excluded from administrative and legal systems. According to surveys in 2007 and 2008, the latest data available on this matter, 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.
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.
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 government implemented a limited number of programs and projects as part of its National Strategy for the Inclusion of Roma. A program initiated in January 2011 aimed at enhancing the quality and efficacy of the activity of medical mediators was completed in February. A second round of a project focusing on the training of Romani school mediators, implemented in partnership with the Council of Europe, took place in April. In partnership with NGOs, the government also continued to implement a project started in 2007 and co-funded by the European Social Fund to support 50 social economy structures developed by vulnerable groups. A further project, initiated in 2009 and focusing on the social integration of Roma in the Center Region, ended in August. Romani NGOs criticized these efforts as insufficient.
To improve relations with the Romani community, police continued to use Romani mediators to facilitate communication between Roma and the authorities and to 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.
According to the preliminary results of the most recent census conducted in 2011, ethnic Hungarians are the country’s largest ethnic minority with a population of approximately 1.25 million.
In the region of Moldavia, 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 2011-12 academic year. In 25 localities the AMCM sponsored daily educational activities in the Hungarian language. In some other localities, requests for Hungarian-language classes were denied.