Budapest Sun
White book highlights Roma persecution

Feb. 10, 2000

The National Ethnic and Minority Protection Office (Neki) published its annual "White Book" on human rights violations in Hungary for the sixth consecutive year last week.

Neki began investigations into districts authorities, the National Police and the Hungarian State and the book includes cases selected from 113 reports to highlight the 25 most important human rights concerns of 1999.

"In the last five years we have received over 500 complaints, and litigated over 100 civil and criminal cases.

"This years statistics show that all of our cases referred to the courts have had a successful outcome," said Dr László Bihary, the legal expert for Neki.

The human rights organization works in conjunction and with the assistance of the Soros Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC). One of the most disgraceful cases reported in the White Book was of Gypsy people excluded from a local pub in Patvarc, in the north of Hungary.

The ERRC is committed to stamping out such blatant racism and said much is created and nurtured at an early age.

One of its concerns is the educational system in Hungary.

Most Roma children in Europe will meet the 21st century in a de facto segregated educational system, it claimed.

In terms of funding, infrastructure, quality of teaching, even curriculum, segregated schools with over 80% Roma enrollment are no worse than in majority schools.

They perpetuate racial walls even if they are otherwise good, even if they are "elite", ERRC claimed

They teach Romani students to "know their place", and ultimately discourage or directly disqualify them from full citizenship.

No coherent de-segregation movement has yet emerged.

According to the ERRC the most outrageous form of denial of the educational rights of Roma is, ironically, typical of the comparatively successful new democracies, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

In these and some other countries, Roma children are streamed in to so called "special schools", or "special classes".

What is "special" about them is that they are designed as substandard educational programs for children with developmental or mental disability.

Roma children are hugely over-represented in such schools and in some places make up to 95% of the student population.

The Neki White book has been released at a time when human rights issues are being addressed at an international level.

The EU’s Phare program is running a $9.5 million project aimed at helping the situation. The budget, given to support young, socially handicapped and ethnic Roma, comprises of $4.9 million from Phare’s own funds, $3.6 million from the Ministry of Education and $1 million from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Family.

Claude Cahn, research and publication director for the ERRC Hungary, said of the program: "It is positive such funds are being allocated.

"The Ombudsman for Human Rights and the Ministry of Education have recognized there is a problem, but previously money has not been allocated to the correct areas.

"Schools sometimes apply for money and this may end up being spent on renovation. Teachers need to be re-trained and curriculums re-evaluated before things get better." he added.

Original article