MINELRES: Poland to UN Economic and Social Rights Committee
European Roma Rights Center
Tue Nov 26 13:02:01 2002
ERRC Press Release:
ERRC Submits Written Comments on Poland to the United Nations Committee
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
November 13, 2002
Today the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights reviews Poland’s compliance with the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Prior to today’s meeting, the
European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) sent written comments to the
Committee for consideration during its review. The ERRC submission
documents widespread racial discrimination and other human rights abuses
against Roma in Poland in the fields of employment, housing, education,
the protection of the family, and the provision of social welfare
The ERRC believes that the upcoming session of the Committee offers an
opportunity to highlight some of the most significant respects in which
the Polish Government has failed to fulfil its commitments under the
Covenant. On the occasion of the review, ERRC Executive Director
Dimitrina Petrova said: "The international community is a debtor to the
Roma of Poland. Their unacceptable situation has gone uncommented upon
for too long. We hope the Committee will use the materials presented in
the ERRC submission to hold the Polish government accountable where Roma
rights are concerned."
The ERRC is aware of the efforts undertaken by the Polish Government to
comply with its obligations under the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as detailed in its report to the
Committee. To date however, these measures have been insufficient to
ensure the implementation of the Covenant where Roma are concerned,
particularly with regard to Articles 2, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13.
As to Article 2 of the Covenant, the ERRC is concerned that Roma in
Poland are subjected to discrimination when seeking to realize the
rights protected by the Covenant. In the absence of adequate
comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, Roma are subject to
discrimination in almost all aspects of their lives, most notably in the
sectoral fields of employment, housing, health, and education.
As to Article 6, ERRC research revealed that Roma suffer from
disproportionate levels of unemployment, and are subject to
discriminatory treatment when seeking employment, both by state labour
offices and by private employers. Racial animus frequently plays a
significant role in the failure by Roma to secure gainful employment.
As to Article 9, the ERRC is concerned that the provisions of the
Covenant, as well as of Polish law, with respect to social security and
welfare support, are applied in a discriminatory manner where Roma are
concerned. Roma in various parts of Poland told the ERRC that they are
also treated with hostility when interacting with local administrative
authorities on issues of social welfare, such as social assistance for
As to Article 10, the ERRC is concerned that Romani children may not
fully enjoy the protection provided by the Covenant, and are often
placed into state care without the consent of their parents.
As to Article 11, Roma face systemic discrimination by both local
authorities and non-state actors in the realization of their right to
adequate housing. Roma often live in segregated areas, in substandard
housing lacking basic infrastructure and facilities such as waste
removal, potable water, and/or electricity. Furthermore, Roma are often
denied requests for municipal housing. When Romani tenants do inhabit
municipal flats, authorities almost invariably fail to meet their
obligation to maintain or renovate the housing facilities. The ERRC has
also documented cases in which authorities subjected Roma to forced
evictions without providing adequate housing alternatives.
As to Article 12, Roma in Poland are in practice subject to
discrimination when seeking to exercise their right to health. They are
often refused access to medical care on racist grounds, and are
condemned to live in squalid conditions that further deteriorate their
As to Article 13, the ERRC has documented grave violations of the right
to education with respect to Romani children. These violations take the
form of widespread discriminatory and segregationist practices, such as
the segregation of Romani children into so-called “Roma classes” or
classes for the mentally disabled; racially-motivated abuse in school;
and the apathy of Polish school authorities in combating low attendance
and school abandonment rates among Romani school-age children.
Finally, the ERRC has identified the practice of local authorities
refusing to register Roma as resident in municipalities as a central
bureaucratic obstacle to the effective implementation of nearly all
substantive rights protected by the Covenant, in particular by Articles
9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. In many areas, despite having lived in a given
location for generations, Roma are refused registration for permanent
residence. This practice effectively precludes Roma from access to
services which are in many areas fundamental for the realisation of
basic social, economic and cultural rights.
In view of the above, the ERRC recommends that the Government undertake
- Adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation by bringing Polish
law into conformity with the requirements of Council Directive
2000/43/EC, “implementing the principle of equality between persons,
irrespective of racial or ethnic origin”. Ensure that the implementing
body mandated by the Directive is strong, fully independent and
adequately staffed and funded.
- Without delay, sign and ratify Protocol 12 to the European Convention
of Human Rights.
- Without delay, sign and ratify the revised Social Charter of the
Council of Europe and make a declaration accepting the collective
complaints procedure under Article D, paragraph 2 of Part IV of the
- Ensure effective remedy for cases of discrimination against Roma in
the field of employment, housing, health care, the protection of the
family, and education.
- Undertake effective measures to ensure that local authorities register
all persons actually residing in a given municipality, without regard to
- Without delay, terminate and sanction the discriminatory practices of
targeting Romani children for removal from parental care. Provide equal
protection to Romani families and children.
- Provide security of tenure for residents of Romani communities and
settlements, and protect the inhabitants from forced and arbitrary
evictions, as well as segregationist local practices.
- Implement a comprehensive school desegregation plan, such that all
Romani children may fully realise the right to education. Without delay,
end the practice of segregating Romani children into so-called “Roma
classes” or into classes for mentally disabled students. Integrate all
Romani students into mainstream classes and, where necessary, design and
implement adequately funded and staffed programmes aimed at easing the
transition from segregated to integrated schooling.
- Design pre-school programmes for Romani children to learn the primary
language of schooling and to attain a level ensuring an equal start in
the first class of primary school.
- Develop and implement catch-up or adult education programmes aimed at
remedying the legacies of substandard education and non-schooling of
- Where instances of abuse in the school system are reported abuse
including exclusionary practices, physical and verbal assault,
humiliating treatment, and failure by teachers and school administrators
to protect Romani children from peer abuse without delay, punish
school authorities responsible, and implement measures aimed at
preventing further abuse.
- Develop curriculum resources for teaching Romani language, culture,
and history in schools, and make them available to all schools, so that
all children in Poland learn of the valuable contributions Roma have
made to Polish society.
- Provide free legal aid to members of weak groups, including Roma and
- At the highest level, speak out against the problem of anti-Romani
sentiment and discrimination; at all levels, acknowledge and speak out
against racism, racially motivated crime, patterns and practices of
discrimination, and segregation. Address the root problem of anti-Romani
racism in Poland by developing and implementing anti-racism curricula
for schools and campaigns for the media, so as to address widespread
negative attitudes against Roma and racism generally.
- Conduct comprehensive human rights and anti-racism training for the
national and local administration, state and private employers, labour
offices staff, school officials, and health care providers.
- Proactively recruit qualified Roma for professional positions in the
national and local administration, labour offices staff, health care
providers, and school officials.
The full text of the ERRC submission is available on the Internet at:
More information on the situation of Roma in Poland can be found at:
The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence
in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the European
Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at http://www.errc.org.
European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax: +36 1 4132201
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