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The Fundación Secretariado Gitano appears before the Commission for Reconstruction at the Spanish Parliament to present its proposals [editar]


The Fundación Secretariado Gitano appears before the Commission for Reconstruction at the Spanish Parliament to present its proposals
  • The FSG is celebrating because the Roma population is being taken into consideration and the organisations which defend their rights are being involved in the national process of social and economic reconstruction.
  • We propose that Roma people are included in the construction of a model of society which offers greater protection of economic and social rights. For this to happen, we need more inclusive public policies which enable specific, tailored responses to be made.

On 1 June, there was a meeting with the Commission for economic and social reconstruction at the Spanish Parliament. Among other contributions from NGOs and social organisations, the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG), represented by Mayte Suárez Vega, Subdirector General, had the opportunity to lay out the 10 points which summarise the proposals of the FSG for a more just, equitable, sustainable society, offering more solidarity and increased protection of economic and social rights.

The post-Covid-19 economic and social crisis will have a devastating impact on people who are in a situation of greater vulnerability, such as the Roma population, if the necessary measures are not applied. The reconstruction cannot follow the path taken after the 2008 crisis, from which the Roma population, along with many other vulnerable groups, has still not recovered.

Poverty, inequality and discrimination persistently and disproportionately affect the Roma community. With every crisis suffered in this country, the gap between the Roma and the general population grows wider. “And the problem is that there are structural barriers within this situation of vulnerability which, if not specifically addressed, will mean the Roma community continues to lag behind the rest of Spanish society”, noted Mayte Suárez.  

The Covid19 crisis has only served to worsen an existing situation of structural and multi-dimensional vulnerability. A single statistic illustrates the social emergency which many Roma families are facing: when this crisis began, more than 40% of the 11,000 Roma participants in our programmes who were interviewed by the FSG already had problems accessing food, which meant that they had difficulties in covering their basic needs. This 40% is an average figure, rising to 70% or 80% in some neighbourhoods.

Laying out the statistics, Mayte Suárez highlighted the intensity and scale of poverty among Roma people (86% living below the poverty threshold, and 46% in extreme poverty); child poverty (89%); the educational and digital divide affecting Roma students; the low participation of the Roma population in the labour market; the continued existence of shanty towns and highly vulnerable neighbourhoods; and the impact of discrimination on the advancement of Roma people.

Despite all this, and despite the widely held belief that Roma families live on welfare benefits, only 32% of very poor Roma households actually receive them. This explains the high incidence of extreme poverty among the Roma population, and the complete lack of social protection affecting a large proportion of Roma families.

For this reason, the FSG warmly welcomes Parliament’s approval of the Minimum Income (IMV) plan, which will guarantee a sufficient level of income for the most disadvantaged households. We believe that this mechanism could be the right tool to put an end to poverty. The priority must be to protect families from poverty, without conditions or requirements having to be met. However, we also believe that other, more structural measures are needed. We propose the following:

  1. Lower the age for receipt of IMV from 23 to 20. The age criteria, from 23 to 65, leaves out a group of young people who get married or form civil partnerships and set up households at an early age. This is more common precisely in the most vulnerable groups in society, among whom poverty and exclusion are also more common.
  2. Along with the IMV, provide real opportunities to protect each person’s subjective right to work activation. Such activity should be seen not only as an opportunity, but also as a subjective right to be protected by public authorities. It is the Autonomous Communities which have the responsibility for enforcing and protecting this right, by creating educational, socio-personal and pre-employment plans which are tailored and adapted to the person and his or her circumstances, always bearing the gender perspective in mind.
  1. An emergency plan to combat school failure, with the objective of reducing it to zero, and a time-frame of 10 years for the measurement of results. The plan must specifically tackle the structural inequalities affecting groups in a situation of socio-educational vulnerabilty, such as Roma school students. These students are over-represented in school failure statistics (6 out of 10 fail to obtain their compulsory secondary education certificate, while only 17% of Roma people aged over 16 have completed compulsory secondary education) and they suffer from a serious educational gap with respect to the general school population. The emergency plan must include measures to provide specialised, tailored educational guidance and support.
  1. A plan to prevent and reverse school segregation for Roma pupils. The concentration of Roma pupils in certain centres of education, especially in primary schools, in proportions of over 30% and sometimes reaching 70%, 80% or 90%, is a reality in most Spanish cities. According to the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), 31% of Roma pupils in Spain study in centres with a high concentration of Roma students[1].
  1. Inclusive measures to close the digital divide. The educational divide affecting Roma students is widened by the digital divide, which has become very clear during this crisis. The closure of primary and secondary schools has given rise to a system based fundamentally on digital resources. Not only do a large number of Roma families lack access to the necessary digital resources, but also, even where they do have these resources, pupils or their families often lack the digital skills and knowledge necessary to use them effectively.
  1. Increase the use of tailored measures in the areas of training, up-skilling, and access to salaried employment, based on personalised plans which are adapted to the educational and employment profile of each individual to help them gain access to the labour market, in particular fostering the entry into training or employment of young people and women.
  1. Protect street vending as a profitable, sustainable economic activity, and a form of local trade which contributes to the economic development of cities and small towns. Offer direct aid to street vendors relaunching their activities at this time, and invest for the future in training, digitalisation and the improvement of their image.
  2. A plan to eradicate shanty towns. In the process of social and economic reconstruction of our country, we cannot permit the continued existence of run-down, segregated and marginalised areas such as shanty towns which, although they are small in number, still house around 9,000 Roma people, including children.
  3. A plan for intervention in and rehabilitation of extremely vulnerable neighbourhoods, with investments to protect economic activity, transport networks, the local environment, residential areas and access to public resources and services. These investments should bear in mind the perspective of children and teenagers as well as elderly people, in order to create neighbourhoods which are safe, inclusive and sustainable.
  4. The urgent approval of the Comprehensive Law for Equal Treatment and non-Discrimination. The Roma population is the most marginalised social group, suffering from a negative social image which leads in many cases to discriminatory and anti-Roma behaviour as well as hate speech. This discrimination infringes Roma people’s right to equality, attacks their dignity, and makes it difficult for them to escape social excusion. We urgently need a legal framework which effectively protects the ability of all people to exercise all their human rights; a comprehensive law which protects all groups who are potentially victims of discrimination.

Mayte Suárez ended her contribution by noting that whatever Pact is agreed by this Commission for the social and economic reconstruction of the country, it presents an opportunity for the most vulnerable, and must also generate real opportunites for Roma people.

At the FSG, we welcome the fact that the Roma population and the organisations which defend their rights are being taken into consideration during this process of social and economic reconstruction. The fact that two of the three Roma members of the Spanish Parliament, Sara Giménez and Ismael Cortés, participated during our appearance as members of the Commission marks a milestone in the political participation of Roma people which has been taking place during this term of government.


[1] FRA, EU MIDIS II, 2016