MRG statement on Roma in Turkey to the 2016 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, Poland
Thank you Madam Chair. I am here with Ms.Elmas Arus, the head of our Roma partner organization, Zero Discrimination Association in Turkey and I will be making this intervention on behalf of both organisations.
The Turkish authorities have been developing policies, to address the challenges faced by Roma in exercise of their rights, improving dialogue with Roma NGOs and have adopted a Roma Strategy Plan. However, the Roma population, continue to face severe challenges.
Poverty is the biggest issue that Roma face in Turkey and it plays a negative role in exercise of many civil, political, economic and social rights, including in access to education, housing, health services, employment and social benefits. This poverty is further excarbated by widespread discriminatory attitudes towards Roma.
Roma do not have adequate access to education. Some Roma still are not enrolled at schools. Dropout rates are high, particularly among girls. In particular children of seasonal workers and children that have to work to support their families cannot attend schools regularly. Even if rare, segregation in education can be seen in some schools. Harassment and discrimination at schools is reported frequently and there are no effective legal and administrative remedies. One critical barrier to integration of Roma within the education system, is that the curriculum does not refer to Roma and their culture and does not itself promote diversity.
Most Roma do not have access to adequate housing. Many Roma live in quarters that generally lack necessary infrastructure and amenities. Most Roma do not have deeds that can enable them to legally own property. The lack of means to aquire legal ownership of their homes, has resulted in many cases where urbanization projects that take place in Roma quarters cause displacement of many Roma who are sometimes not provided with alternative housing.
Roma experience high levels of unemployment, whilst most Roma that are in employment work in low paid, unskilled and insecure jobs. Discrimination and stereotyping is again a further barrier to Roma; there is still no effective nationwide policy to address the specific discrimination faced by Roma in employment.
Early marriage and childbirth are common amongst Roma and these cause many health issues. Many Roma have green cards that enable them to have access to free health services, yet discrimination occurs in treatment at health centres and hospitals.
Roma should benefit equally from social aid provided by authorities, however many Roma lack access to information about its availability. Access to social aid is not systematized effectively in some parts of the country, particularly in southeast Turkey, and disproportionately affects Roma.
As you can see from these examples, discrimination is a constant challenge to Roma in the realization of their rights. In the legal sphere adequate measures have not been taken yet to ensure equality and prevent discrimination in Turkey. Article 10 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination but not on the grounds of ethnic origin. The Law on Human Rights and Equality Body of Turkey was adopted in April 2016, however an equality body is not established yet.
Roma face incidents of hate crimes individually and as a group and despite this, adequate preventive or punitive measures are not taken at legal or administrative level. There is no hate crimes legislation in Turkey. Moreover, there is no official data on hate crimes and discriminatory practices.
In conclusion, despite positive measures to address discrimination and marginalisation of Roma in Turkey, many more concrete and specific steps need to be taken to ensure that Roma have equal access to fundamental rights. We urge the government of Turkey to take measures to strengthen cooperation with the Roma and Sinti contact point of the OSCE and develop further effective programmes of cooperation with Roma CSOs in order to address these critical challenges.
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