News from the Centre de Mediations des Gens de Voyage et des Roms

Centre de Médiation des Gens du Voyage et des Roms, Belgium:

Since 2001, the CMGVR has been active with both the Roma and the Traveller communities, providing daily social and administrative help, as well as support for their professional integration.  As a mediation body, it makes the relation with authorities, institutions and services easier and more effective for Roma families. The CMGVR proposes frequent supervisions for local authorities, and trainings for Roma mediators and social, educative, administrative and health workers. Our NGO also tries to support the effective participation of Roma and Travellers at the discussion tables on national, regional and local levels and ensures that Roma and Travellers’ claims reach the political level.

New local projects of integration through housing

For a number of years, the CMGVR has drawn attention to an alarming observation: the number of Roma families in situation of homelessness is increasing, not only in Brussels but also in other Belgian cities. To this day, there is hardly any humanitarian (and even emergency) answer to the worrisome situation of these families and children. Recently, the difficulties they face have even worsened with the introduction of the “anti-squat law”.

Beyond to the lack of infrastructure and regulation, an additional difficulty lies in the family dimension of homelessness faced by Roma, as most of the existing initiatives meant to tackle homelessness or develop housing insertion are conceived for individuals, not for families. This observation holds for the most basic housing support like emergency night shelters, the great majority of which are not accessible to children. Beyond short term emergency sheltering, Roma people face numerous obstacles on the rental market and in accessing social housing.

In the face of this significant lack of perspectives for families living in precarious housing conditions, the CMGVR has decided to innovate and launch local projects of insertion through housing. At this time, two families have been provided with temporary housing (6 months to a year). These projects are developed in partnerships with local authorities and with the social housing public and private agencies. They are inspired by the method of “Housing First”[1] and have the ambition of bringing marginalized families back into regular social and administrative rights. The CMGVRW thus follows up on the accompaniment of these families with social, educational, administrative and health support.

This experience has shown that housing insertion comes with an increased ability for families to cope and stabilize other areas of life, which they could not address while living in the streets. The numerous positive outcomes of these local projects illustrate that while there are no ready-made solutions, some successful operational practices do exist and should be developed on a wider scale.

Working in the context of a sanitary crisis

In 2020, the CMGVR has had to adjust its projects and services to the global pandemic of COVID-19, particularly during the lockdown period.

From the very beginning of the healthcare crisis, the CMGVR became aware that communicating about COVID-19 would be a major challenge, particularly for the most “vulnerable” groups, for whom language barriers or situations of socio-economic poverty might hinder access to information or health care. All through the confinement period, the CMGVR team thus made sure to maintain optimal communication and follow-up with Roma and Traveller families.  As early as March 2020, the CMGVR launched a wide information campaign about the COVID-19 crisis and the sanitary measures recommended by the government. As the government decisions and confinement phases evolved, the information was regularly updated and made available on social networks, as well as through mails and texts translated into several Eastern European languages (including romanes). The objective was to respond to the many fears and questions raised by the pandemic, and to ensure that the sanitary measures were understood and applied by all.

The CMGVR also sought to support health care professionals by offering translation services to hospitals, medical houses and general practitioners in order to facilitate communication with Roma individuals and families. Similar services of translation and mediation were also offered to schoolteachers and other educational actors as schools reopened, both in June and in September 2020.

Now that the lockdown period is over, the CMGVR has resumed its on-site projects and accompaniment, notably its mobile school support project, which provides complementary learning support to Traveller families and children with a focus on reading, writing and calculation. The CMGVR also offers school support to Roma children who face language or learning difficulties.

[1]    “Housing First” is the name of a method meant to tackle homelessness, based on the idea that any effective inclusion process starts with a decent place to live. In this logic, providing homeless people with an individual and permanent housing is a prerequisite for durable inclusion.

National Training Course on Human Rights Education

National Training Course on Human Rights Education in Spain

From 6-10 July 2020 FAGiC (the Federation of Roma Associations in Catalonia) together with Plataforma Khetané organized a National Training Course on Human Rights Education funded by the Youth Department of the Council of Europe.

The NTC “Training4Roma, Human Rights Training for Roma and non Roma youth activists” was held in the Library Font de La Mina, in the La Mina neighbourhood of Barcelona. The course targeted Roma and non Roma youth from different backgrounds who work with other young people to become multipliers of Human Rights education.

From the first moment, the environment was very good among the 13 participants willing to learn more and from each other. 4 young Roma participants were from the La Mina neighbourhood itself, stigmatized in the media as a “dangerous” place and criminalising the Roma inhabitants as potential drug traffickers.

In this way, the 4 young Roma students broke with the stereotypes not only of Roma, but also of the neighbourhood. Asked by the non-Roma participants, we organised a “guided tour” of the neighbourhood, explaining the historical construction from the exclusion perspective and how this has affected to the lives of the people living there.

The NTC was based on the COMPASS manual on Human Rights Education of the Council of Europe and also targeted Antigypsyism from the perspective of Human Rights. The training consisted of 3 parts:

  1. Introduction to the topic of Human Rights through activities and methods from the manual and by sharing participants’ experiences. Following on, we went deeper into the topic of Antigypsyism and how to develop educational responses to it.
  2. Providing space and time to participants to develop their facilitation skills. Participants did not only use activities from Mirrors or Compass, they also adapted them perfectly to the situation and to the goal they really wanted to achieve.
  3. Evaluation and planning concrete follow-up activities

During the training, we received the visits from OND (Oficina per a la NO Discriminació) – Non Discrimination Office from the Council of Barcelona, from Catalan Human Rights Institute and also some local Roma initiatives fighting for Human Rights.

We thank the Municipality of Sant Adrià del Besòs, to which the neighbourhood belongs, for letting us use the whole library space in this difficult time due to Covid 19.


Dream to Grow

Dream to grow: How to make Europe’s labor markets a place for all

Co-hosted by: European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network (ERGO) and the Romani Early Years Network (REYN), an initiative of ISSA – the International Step by Step Association

October 7th, 14:00 – 16:00 CET

  • Find the agenda and catalogue of human books here.
  • Sign up here to receive access to the online event.

Although almost ten years have passed since the adoption of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, Roma remain widely exposed to antigypsyism, poverty and social exclusion without opportunities to access proper education, employment, or training. They keep facing unequal treatment and inequalities in health, education, employment, and living conditions, a gap which has continued to widen following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

63% of Roma aged 16-24 are not employed, in education or training (55% of young Roma men and 72% of young Roma women) and 40% of Roma report feeling discriminated at work! Even if they manage to secure employment, they often continue to face lower wages, precarious and atypical contracts, a lack of career options, and direct discrimination and harassment of employers and colleagues.

Eliminating such inequalities and promoting positive models of inclusion and diversity starting from the very beginning of life must be a priority not only for EU and national policy makers, but also for every person in Europe. Diversity does not only benefit minorities, but also impacts greatly on the quality of services offered and on society.

Acknowledging that it is fundamental to rewrite the current narrative about Roma and restore their dignity and pride, this event aspires to share inspiring stories highlighting Roma professionals’ different pathways to become who they are today and showing the difference that enabling, inclusive and diverse educational and working environments can make for society.

Why should you join this event:

  • Get inspired by real-life stories of Roma professionals who have succeeded to break the wall of prejudices and stereotypes and realized their dreams by participating in the online Human Library.
  • Learn about the advocacy efforts civil society organizations are doing to ensure equity, inclusion and diversity in education and at work.
  • Reflect together about the multilayered challenges and unequal treatment young Roma are facing in Europe and the long-term consequences of political inaction.
  • Benefit from lessons learned in implementing inclusive policies and practices and discover how to become part of the solution.

This event receives funding from the European Union. The information contained reflects only the author’s view; and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

This event is co-funded by the Open Society Foundations Early Childhood Program. The program has been providing continous support to the Romani Early Years Network initiative since its start.

Digital High-Level Conference

Digital High-Level Conference on the new Strategic EU Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma until 2030

Instead of the traditional “EU Roma Platform”, the German EU Presidency and the European Commission will organize on the 12 October the “Digital High-Level Conference on the new Strategic EU Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma until 2030”, bringing together all relevant stakeholders from the EU member states and enlargement countries  to launch the new “EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation”.

The EU Coalition of Roma and pro-Roma organisations will participate at the event to bring the views of Roma civil society to the table, with ERGO Network being well represented with several speakers.

ERGO Network Director will represent civil society in the Opening Panel to ask questions to EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, who will launch the new Strategic Framework. The co-chair of ERGO Network’s board and former MEP Soraya Post will contribute to the panel on Roma participation, while ERGO Network vice-chair Adriatik Hasantari and Director of Roma Active Albania will talk about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Roma.

The conference, which will be opened by German Minister of the Interior, Building and Community Horst Seehofer, will provide a forum for discussion of priorities for the next 10 years, such as combatting antigypsyism, equality, inclusion and participation, through dialogue and exchange of knowledge and experiences, at all levels. It will also highlight Member States’ perspectives and give stakeholders an opportunity to make their voices heard.

ERGO Network together with its partners has inputted into the development of the new Strategic Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma all along the way with recommendations.

ERGO Network also invested in the coordination of the Roma and pro-Roma Civil society under the banner of the EU Roma post-2020 Coalition. The coalition brought together its expertise to formulate questions for Commissioner Dalli and to create common messages. The partners in the coalition are furthermore preparing a reflection to the EC Communication on theStrategic EU Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation of Roma until 2030 that will be published on the 6 October 2020.

ERGO Network will provide regular updates before and during the event on its social media channels.

Quality Standards for the Youth Guarantee- #RomaYouth as focus

Quality Standards for the Youth Guarantee- #RomaYouth as focus

The European Youth Guarantee so far failed to provide quality offers to marginalized groups, including #RomaYouth.

Together with other civil society organizations, ERGO Network has contributed to a set of Quality Standards for the Youth Guarantee proposed by the European Youth Forum.

The recommendation paper is aimed to contribute to the communication issued by the European Commission and debated in the European Parliament and Council “Youth Employment Support: a bridge to jobs for the next generation” which will be adopted later this year.

ERGO stands for several standards to be included in the new strategy and make sure that Roma youth are not overlooked in the implementation process. Please read the publication here.