Photos by Derek Speirs.
The results of a new report “Roma in Ireland – A National Needs Assessment”, launched today by the Department of Justice and Equality, exposes shocking living conditions for Roma in Ireland.
Shocking living conditions
This unique study, largely carried out by trained Roma peer researchers, found many Roma living in overcrowded, rat infested accommodation, sometimes with no gas, water or electricity with one in ten having no kitchen, fridge or bathroom in their accommodation.
“During the research I met members of my community who could not put food on the table and who were living in houses that were completely unfit for human beings. It was very upsetting,” said Gabi Muntean, Community Worker, Pavee Point.
“It’s particularly hard to hear about the children living in overcrowded houses with rats, damp and sewerage. Some people said they did not have the basic supplies for new babies, such as nappies and baby clothes, and that children were going to school hungry and without lunch.”
The research also uncovered a wider experience of consistent poverty – 50% of respondents did not always have enough food or fuel.
The research also reports high levels of discrimination against the Roma community in Ireland, with over 80% of respondents reporting discrimination in the street or a public place. Respondents reported being told to “go home” and “go back to your country.”
“The recommendation for effective measures to tackle anti-Roma racism, particularly towards Roma women is a very important commitment by the Government,” added Gabi Muntean.
Excluded from system
“The poverty identified in the research was consistently linked to not having employment, not having the right to reside and not being habitually resident,” said Siobhan Curran, Roma Project Coordinator, Pavee Point.
“What this means in practice is that many respondents could not access financial supports, including child benefit or training and employment supports, as they are not considered job-seekers. Some of the most vulnerable respondents could not access medical cards as they had no documentation to prove they have no income, ” said Ms. Curran.
Humanitarian response needed
“We need to ensure that people are not living without food and basic shelter and the Government’s commitment to an enhanced humanitarian response for the most vulnerable is encouraging,” she said.
“Along with this targeted employment measures for Roma who are not habitually resident will make a real difference in the lives of Roma, ” added Ms. Curran.
Roma community members remain hopeful that this report will be the start of a change for Roma in Ireland.
Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:
“The participation of Roma communities, which has been so central to the production of this National Needs Assessment by Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, together with the Department of Justice and Equality, must now be key in implementing its recommendations.
“Alongside the experience of poverty, which resonates powerfully through this comprehensive National Needs Assessment, the fact that Roma experience of discrimination is prevalent, marks another defining feature.
The Commission recognises its role in combatting this discrimination, and the development of intercultural understanding in the State, and is directly supporting the dissemination of the findings of this National Needs Assessment.”
3rd generation Irish Roma
The research points to approximately 5,000 Roma living throughout Ireland with 70% living here over 5 years and 14% living in Ireland over 15 years. Over 63% of children in the study were born in Ireland and Roma live in every county of Ireland.
‘We know from this study that there are 3rd generation Irish Roma. We are part of Ireland now ,” said Gabi Muntean, “We want to be accepted in our society and to be active in decisions affecting our lives.”
“We are happy that Roma voices are finally being heard, even though it was sometimes shocking and hard to hear the results. This study is the reality for Roma in Ireland – Roma trusted us to share their information and experiences, now we need to take action,” added Ms. Muntean.
The report was launched by Garrett Byrne, Principal Officer at the Dept. of Justice & Equality and speakers included Anastasia Crickley, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and Roma; Professor Patricia Kennedy, Social Policy; Gabi Muntean, Pavee Point Traveller Roma Centre; Siobhan Curran, Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre and Roma peer researchers who were trained to conduct questionnaires for this study including – Joseph Duna, Gina Cirpaci, Alex Petrovics, Isaac Ianko, Emilia Caldaras and Emmanuel Caldaras.
The report was undertaken following the 2014 Special Inquiry by the Children’s Ombudsman into the removal of two Roma children from their families into State care, on the basis of their appearance. It is a collaborative publication, by Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre and the Department of Justice and Equality.
The research was undertaken with 14 Roma peer researchers and involved questionnaires with 108 Roma households (609 household members), 30 interviews and 8 focus groups with Roma and service providers and consultations with relevant experts.
Full ‘Roma in Ireland – A National Needs Assessment’ – here