MINELRES: Roma situation in Lithuania

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Apr 25 08:09:49 2005

Original sender: Aina Damkute <aina.damkute@hrmi.lt>

Dear Friends,
For your information, attached please find a summary of Roma situation
in Lithuania.
With the best regards,
Aina Damkute 
Project co-ordinator
Human Rights Monitoring Institute
Didzioji 5,  LT-01128 Vilnius
Tel.: +370 2314681, 
Mob.tel: +370 8623 06461 


Roma: Situation Assessment

Vilnius,  April 2005

This project is supported by the Royal Netherlands Embassy. 

The research was conducted by Tadas Leoncikas, Junior Researcher at the
Department of Ethnic Studies of the Institute for Social Research and
Expert at the Human Rights Monitoring Institute.

Special thanks to Vida Beresneviciute, Zilvinas Miseikis, Svetlana
Novopolskaja and Rasa Paliukiene for their assistance in collecting data
for this overview.


In Lithuania the Roma issue has been drawing public attention for a few
years. However, until today a number of deep-seated problems have
contrasted policy makers' poor understanding of how to solve them.  

As identified in the government-initiated 2000-2004 Roma Integration
Programme, the principal problems faced by the Roma still persist in the
sectors of labour, housing, education, healthcare and public services.
The Roma themselves as well as the experts and officials dealing with
Roma problems do realise in one or another way these issues. However,
the causes of these problems are not regularly analysed or superficial
popular opinions are provided to explain them.

Although the 2001 Population Census registered 2,500 Roma in Lithuania,
it is believed that the actual number is probably closer to 3,000. Even
though they constitute a relatively small group of residents, the
government should be capable in terms of both finances and
administration to develop policies that would help achieve essential
changes in Roma life. Marginalisation in the labour market, educational
system and public services sphere makes it difficult for the Roma to
overcome this exclusion on their own.

About every other (46 percent) Lithuanian Rom is younger than 20 years
of age, while this age group constitutes 27 percent nationwide.
Therefore, education and employment are crucially important for the
development of the Roma community.

Education continues to pose the most serious problems for the Roma
Community. In recent years, the percentage of Roma children enrolled in
school increased compared to previous years. However there are very few
Roma with a diploma and a high rate of illiteracy prevails. A number of
Roma children attend specialised instead of general education schools in
provincial areas.

Elderly Roma speak Lithuanian much more frequently than the younger
generation in comparison to other ethnic minorities whose young people
speak Lithuanian better than the older generation. This reflects a
"regressive tendency" showing the extending exclusion of the Roma.

Roma involvement in the labour market is one of the most painful issues
since only poor results have been attained in this field. Although the
development of a mechanism for Roma integration into the labour market
is underway in the framework of a project supported by the EQUAL
programme, this project will not replace the necessity to formulate
policy on Roma integration in the labour market.

The vast majority of Roma either have very few possibilities or none at
all to improve their living conditions. The quality of housing in the
Kirtimai settlement is especially poor, and the prospects of this
compound are unclear. Social housing is not necessarily a suitable
alternative as it increases living costs and the Roma question whether
they can afford it.

The provision of primary healthcare services, especially in the Kirtimai
settlement, is very important for the Roma because of health risk
factors, including easily available drugs. Certain gaps were bridged by
mobile medical services (visits of medical doctors and nurses to the
Kirtimai settlement), which experts rated as effective assistance.
However these services are not guaranteed.

The analysis of collected data contradicts the opinion pointing to Roma
self-isolation and reluctance to integrate (it is sometimes claimed that
perhaps social exclusion does not exist except for the alienation of the
Roma themselves). Even though Roma have not expressed any attitudes of
alienation, success stories of effective Roma involvement in various
initiatives are practically non-existent. Notwithstanding, it should be
noted that gaining Roma trust is not so much the task of the Roma but
the challenge to all who are willing to change the current situation.

The input of non-governmental organisations in seeking forms of
activities for the Roma is also vital. Over the last ten years, a number
of cultural and educational projects have been implemented. However, the
majority of projects were short-term and had limited impact, failing to
achieve systemic changes. On the other hand, this generated a network of
experts on issues related to Roma integration.

No marked changes have been achieved in developing the Roma capacity to
participate in integration efforts. Although around 20 Roma
organisations have been founded over the past 15 years, most of them are
no longer active. Only four NGOs were able to take advantage of an
opportunity to participate in a programme allowing tax payers to donate
two percent of their income tax for the non-profit sector.  

At the moment, there is a growing need for both the detailed
identification of Roma-specific problems in individual fields and for a
critical revision of Roma integration policy. The shortcomings of
institutional coordination in the implementation of the 2000-2004 Roma
Integration Programme posed the main administrative problems. This
resulted in incoherent integration efforts in separate regions, no
review of the experiences gained in the programme implementation, an
absence of an impact assessment and a failure both to set priorities and
to ensure the continuity of programme activities. Programme
implementation revealed that the Department of Minorities and Emigration
lacked the administrative capacity and political importance to ensure
the coordination of Roma integration. Roma integration policy could
become more effective if greater attention was paid to it on the
governmental level.

The current situation calls for the drafting of a national strategy for
Roma involvement in both the education system and the labour market,
setting priority fields of social assistance, development of
community-oriented target projects and support for non-governmental