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 is this programme about?

The aim of the REILA project is 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 aims 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 are we delivering this programme?

The two target countries of the project, Hungary and Serbia, both have a large Roma population. The Roma have been discriminated historically and despite the improvements in the legal protection, there are still systematic patterns of discrimination preventing 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 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 lack of protection of the rights of Roma victims of human rights violations and discrimination.

What are we doing?

  • Conducting research on discrimination against the Roma, their attitudes to and experience of access to justice and legal practitioners’ knowledge about anti-discrimination legislation which will feed in a baseline report which partners will use to raise awareness about discrimination against the Roma
  • Training legal practitioners on 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
  • Training CSO staff which work closely with the Roma community on how to identify discrimination cases, where to refer Roma victims of discrimination, how to conduct advocacy activities and involve Roma community members in decision-making procedures.
  • Training Roma mediators and 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
  • Providing free legal aid for Roma victims of discrimination
  • Offering legal assistance to report discrimination cases to the equality body to promote better protection and access to justice of Roma victims of discrimination
  • Supporting Partners and Roma activists to carry out advocacy actions to fight against discrimination at the local, national and international level
  • Publishing a lessons learnt report to summarise the outcomes of the project and to disseminate the experience at the national and EU level

Who are our partners?

Our partners are:

  • Praxis is a national non-governmental organisation established in 2004 in Belgrade to protect human rights by providing legal protection and advocating for elimination of systemic obstacles in 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 is funding this programme?

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

Find out more

We published three reports relating to this programme:

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.

MRG has carried out similar projects which focused on the human rights of the Roma in North Macedonia, Central Europe and Ukraine.

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

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