Roma Equality through Increased Legal Access (REILA): Increasing the access to justice of the Roma in Hungary and Serbia

Europe | Hungary | Serbia |

Duration: 1 September 2020 – 31 August 2022

Countries: Hungary, Serbia

Community: Roma

What was this programme about?

The aim of the REILA programme was to promote and protect the rights of Roma victims of human rights violations and discrimination by raising society’s and stakeholders’ awareness, enhancing implementation of non-discrimination legislation and empowering Roma to seek legal remedies in Hungary and Serbia. The project aimed to create a virtuous circle whereby increased Roma involvement in access to justice mechanisms leads to more and better cases being filed, which leads to benefits to Roma communities which in turn increases trust in legal remedies and lawyers and encourages yet more cases to come forward.

Why did we deliver this programme?

The two target countries of the programme, Hungary and Serbia, both have a large Roma population. Roma have been discriminated against historically and despite the improvements in legal protection, there are still systematic patterns of discrimination preventing the Roma population from the full realisation of their right to employment, education, health care and housing. Roma communities tend to live in segregated neighbourhoods with low access to public services and poor public infrastructures. Similarly, many Roma face discrimination when looking for employment in relation to their ethnicity and negative stereotypes linked to their community. When it comes to education, Roma school-aged children tend to be victims of severe segregation, placed in classes and schools with only Roma pupils or disproportionately placed in special schools for children with disabilities. Overall, one of the reasons behind these problems is that in Serbia and Hungary, anti-discrimination legislation and measures to make mainstream education, employment and social policies more inclusive, are not being systematically applied.

In contrast to the high levels of continuing discrimination and recent small improvements regarding awareness, there is a low number of complaints relating to discrimination affecting Roma persons. The main reasons behind the lack of reporting and direct access to legal remedies are a lack of trust towards the judiciary and public institutions and a widespread belief that reporting discrimination will only worsen the situation and/or open confrontation with the perpetrator/s. Likewise, there is an overwhelming lack of awareness and understanding of non-discrimination legislation and inclusion policies among professionals and public officials, leading to poor case identification and a lack of protection of the rights of Roma victims of human rights violations and discrimination.

What did we do?

  • We conducted research in Hungary and Serbia to map the different fields of discrimination against Roma and the obstacles to their access to justice. As a result, we produced 3 reports (find links to reports below).
  • We trained 24 lawyers online on national and international anti-discrimination law and minority rights to strengthen their capacities and enable them to provide legal aid for Roma victims of discrimination and to assist them with litigation in discrimination cases. All participants rated the training materials as good or very good and found the training relevant or very relevant for their work. Participants considered that their knowledge has improved or significantly improved in all areas which have been covered by the training. All participants rated the role-play cases as good or very good.
  • We trained 20 CSO representatives who work closely with the Roma community on how to identify discrimination cases, where to refer Roma victims of discrimination and how to conduct advocacy activities.
  • We trained 20 Roma activists to strengthen their capacities on how to provide advice, support and encouragement to Roma victims of discrimination who may be considering accessing a legal remedy.
  • Both in Serbia and Hungary, three Roma mediators have been carrying out field visits since November 2021 to identify discrimination cases in the community.
  • Between November 2021 and May 2022, Serbian Roma mediators conducted a total of 48 field visits and, together with Praxis, identified 13 discrimination cases in total, while in Hungary, mediators carried out 29 field visits and identified 14 discrimination cases in the same period.
  • In Serbia 7 and in Hungary 3 discrimination cases have been reported to the equality body.
  • Our partner from Serbia, Praxis made a submission to the EU annual progress report 2021 in which discrimination against Roma was addressed and findings of our baseline report were quoted. Our partner from Hungary Idetartozunk has prepared a 2-pager about different issues related to discrimination against Roma for the UPR of Hungary that was held in November 2021.

Our publications

Who were our partners?

Our partners were:

  • Praxis is a national non-governmental organisation established in 2004 in Belgrade to protect human rights by providing legal protection and advocating for the elimination of systemic obstacles to access to rights.
  • Idetartozunk (We Belong Here Association) is a Roma emancipation organization based in Hungary that strives for the identity and social-civic equality of Roma people and Roma communities.

Who funded this programme?

This programme was funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020).

Read the evaluation report

This programme was independently evaluated. Click here to read the evaluation report.

Find out more

A similar project to REILA, Equality for Roma through Enhanced Legal Access (ERELA), is being implemented in Bulgaria and Croatia by MRGE and its local Partners, Amalipe Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance and Information Legal Center. Also Promoting Roma Equality in Slovenia and Slovakia (PRESS) with The Center for Civil and Human Rights (Poradna) and EPEKA Association.

MRG has carried out similar programmes which focused on the human rights of the Roma in North MacedoniaCentral Europe and Ukraine.

Featured image: Free Court! Free Gyöngyöspata! Roma protest in Budapest, February 2020. Credit: Gabriella Csoszó / FreeDoc.

European flagThis programme was funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020). This content represents the views of Minority Rights Group only and is its sole responsibility. The European Union does not accept any responsibility for the use that may be made of the information it contains.

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