Roma inclusion strategy – Why are we still waiting?
This blog post is written by UKREN Chair and Director of the Migrants’ Rights Network, Don Flynn.
The UK’s response to EU efforts to improve the situation of Roma people in Europe suggests there is some bafflement within government departments as to what the basic issues are.
The big move in Europe came with efforts to raise the profile of the Roma during the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion in 2010. Governments were invited to submit reports on the position of the Roma in their countries based on a common template. These would take the form of peer reviews, intended to be honest and critical wherever that was required.
The UK report was critical of the policy vacuum in this area, which meant that regions with substantial Roma communities were given no real guidance as to the issues which they ought to be tackling to promote inclusion. The National Action Programme on Social Inclusion, produced by the Department for Work and Pensions, does not feature the Roma as a distinct ethnic group and the absence of this profile has implications for the way resources aimed at tackling social exclusion are allocated.
The UK peer review went on to list a total of eight measures which might begin to rectify this situation, most of which centred on the importance of how social dynamics work to produce disadvantages which were particular to the Roma people.
The EU’s plan of work required the UK government to respond to the peer review report, setting out its views of it recommendations and intentions, if any, on how they might be implemented. But one year after the submission of the peer review the government has still not provided this response.
What it has done however is provide a holding response, which has taken the form of the submission of a strategy document of the Welsh government addressing the needs of gypsies and travellers in the principality. This is a very interesting policy paper, but it has the disadvantage of specifically excluding the Roma from its remit.
It seems fair to ask whether anyone in government departments has any focus at all on the position of the Roma people in the UK. A cursory read of the Welsh strategy would have made it clear that it did not address the peer review’s insistence on the need for specific focus on the Roma and a programme of action based on those considerations.
Supporters of the Roma in the UK continue to live in hope that the issues they are bringing to the attention of government will at some point get a fair consideration. This might still happen if policy makers can be persuaded to take seriously the points made in the review and provide a proper and full response. They are continuing to wait for the sign that this progress is being made.