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New Study Says Roma Face Hardship, Continued Discrimination

Roma children from the Trizla settlement in Prilep, Macedonia.
A new study of Europe's Roma by the European Union, the World Bank, and the United Nations has found that only 15 percent of the minority have completed secondary education, and more than 90 percent live below the poverty lines of the countries they live in.

The report, released on May 23, also found that up to 20 percent of Roma are not covered by health insurance or don't know if they are; 45 percent live in households lacking at least one basic amenity such as an indoor toilet or electricity; and nearly half said they had experienced discrimination within the past year.

The report by the EU's Agency For Fundamental Rights (FRA), the UN Development Program, and the World Bank was based on interviews with more than 22,000 people in Central and Europe.

It covered Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain.

According to the EU's FRA, there are some 10 million to 12 million Roma across Europe.

Michail Beis, program manager of the FRA, said the plight of most Roma prevented them from getting the skills they need to lift themselves out of poverty.

"We also found that less than 30 percent of Roma were in paid employment," he said on FRA's website. "This means increased poverty resulting in segregated as well as in poor housing."

Beis added that the burden of poor education, unemployment, and below-par housing combine to form a negative cycle of exclusion from the European mainstream.

"The circle continues -- as poor housing affects employment and educational opportunities. As the European Commission said, this is unacceptable in the European Union today."

It is hoped the findings will be used to help the European Commission develop policies to help the Roma escape their dire conditions.

FRA Director Morten Kjaerum said the patterns of Roma discrimination are "striking" across EU member states and "leave no excuse for delaying swift, effective action."

With reporting by AFP and
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