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FSG publishes The Impact of the Crisis on the Roma Community (in Spanish) and warns that many Roma families that had managed to climb out of poverty are falling back in

Fundación Secretariado Gitano


The Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) warns of the severe and disproportionate impact of the crisis and austerity measures on the Roma community in its latest report The impact of the crisis on the Roma community. The latter concludes that the crisis and the fiscal cutbacks are directly affecting a large part of the Roma community, reducing their income levels and quality of life and increasing the poverty rate of many Roma families who already found themselves in precarious situations prior to the crisis. Two thirds of the Roma population lives below the poverty line and more than one third are in situations of severe exclusion; prior to the crisis, 12% of people at risk of exclusion in Spain were Roma. The crisis and the cuts threaten to derail three decades of progress towards equal opportunity and point to a regression in employment, education, health and housing.

The work of the FSG – present in 77 municipalities in 14 regions of Spain – allows us to be in daily contact with the reality of Roma on the ground and makes us eyewitnesses of the severe effects the crisis is having on the Roma community. Every year, we reach over 104,000 Roma through more than 400 programmes, which allow us to witness first hand increasing demands for basic assistance by Roma families in recent years. Some of them, which had achieved adequate levels of social inclusion, are now immersed again in situations of exclusion.

In general, the situation has worsened in all areas: job losses (the unemployment rate among Roma is estimated around 42%), declining income, difficulties in coping with paying rent or mortgage, or utility bills, thereby forcing many families to decide between realising these payments or meeting their basic needs of food and hygiene. Many families have lost their homes in recent years through eviction processes. The most direct consequences are a rise in cases of overcrowding, as well as an increase in the number of Roma living in substandard housing and slums or squatting.

The accelerated loss of employment, which has proven to be the most important problem in Spain in the last four years, is hitting the Roma particularly hard: many Roma are unemployed and cannot find new jobs. The progress made by the Roma community in accessing paid employment in recent years has suffered a serious setback. Job insecurity has increased in this period, the level of irregular work is increasing, and many labour rights are violated. The existing prejudices and discrimination against Roma in Spanish society is an added barrier to the recruitment of Roma. As a consequence, many Roma families which had achieved financial autonomy are now returning to a dependence on social benefits, which in turn are increasingly scarce.

Education is a key element in the social inclusion of the Roma community, as it will determine access to employment and to financial autonomy in the future. If this element fails, the entire inclusion system is affected, and the austerity measures being taken leave the most vulnerable Roma students unattended. The crisis and austerity measures are having a direct impact on the education of Roma children, and their long-term effects could be severe. The reduction of study bursaries, school meal grants, subsidised school supplies, etc... is affecting the attendance of Roma students in classrooms and educational processes, as well as their academic performance; some of the students do not have sufficient resources to pay for school materials or school canteen. These cuts in turn produce an increase of school absenteeism and early school leaving, thereby intensifying problems that already affected many Roma prior the crisis. Overcrowding and lack of support classes make it difficult for students with lower levels to follow the school curriculum.


The worst situation is borne by Roma from Eastern European countries, such as Romania and Bulgaria, who scarcely have the cushion provided by the family to support them. We have registered cases of families barely surviving in extreme conditions in slums (eg. Galicia, Asturias and Catalonia). Families living on the trade of scrap metal have had to abandon this activity, have lost their primary source of income and are not entitled to social benefits due to their administrative situation, and are subsisting by begging or searching for food in garbage.

Furthermore, Roma from Eastern European countries are heavily discriminated against, and are the target of xenophobic and anti-gypsy speeches on a regular basis. The degree of social rejection makes it virtually impossible for them to find a job. They have experienced severe restrictions in their right to healthcare, due to the new law on health adopted in 2012: lack of health card, barriers for vaccination, overuse of emergency services, confusion in processing rules, etc... This limitation is even affecting children and pregnant women. In fact, schooling is decreasing among Roma children from Eastern Europe due to the difficulties in obtaining a health card, given that without a health card, families cannot obtain the school health report needed to enrol children.


The FSG recalls the responsibility of the state to protect the most vulnerable and makes a series of recommendations to the public authorities:

  • It is necessary that the emergency measures currently being designed, such as the Plan Against Child Poverty, take into account the most vulnerable groups, and specifically the Roma community.
  • It is necessary to pay special attention to the education of children, maintaining and even strengthening those educational support measures that benefit particularly Roma children and youth. The education cuts are affecting Roma students directly and negatively.
  • In a country with more than six million unemployed persons, the employment promotion measures currently being designed cannot focus exclusively on the most employable, and cannot relegate the most excluded to the background.
  • It is necessary to take advantage of EU Structural Funds to invest in social cohesion and implement inclusion programmes that have a direct positive impact on the Roma community.
  • It is necessary to effectively implement the National Roma Integration Strategy by endowing it with adequate funding and contents, with a view to contributing to Spain’s employment, education and poverty-reduction objectives in the framework of the Europe 2020 Strategy.


The national report synthesises the regional reports produced by the teams of the FSG in 54 different localities of Spain, in the 14 regions of Spain where the FSG operates. The field research was conducted between March and June of this year. The diagnosis is part of an internal reflection process on the responses that the Spanish government should give to revert the processes of exclusion and reduce inequalities between Roma and the majority population. As additional documentation, the FSG collected actual cases of Roma families from different regions of Spain that have been significantly affected by the crisis.