Poor living conditions show urgency to help Ireland’s Roma - New Report
2018-02-01 17:05:00 -

By Chinedu Onyejelem

A new report that highlights poor living conditions for Roma in Ireland was recently launched by the Department of Justice and Equality.


Some 5,000 Roma live in Ireland, according to the report – 70 percent of whom have lived here more than five years, and 14 percent more than 15 years. 


Roma in Ireland: A National Needs Assessment was undertaken by trained Roma peer researchers, and reveals that many Roma people live in overcrowded and vermin-infested accommodation, without running water or energy supply.


Moreover, the study says one in every 10 Roma does not have a kitchen, fridge or bathroom in their home in Ireland.


The new report is the result of collaboration between the Justice and Traveller and Roma advocacy group Pavee Point. 


“This document is probably the single most important piece of research carried out on the Roma community in Ireland. It reads well but does not make for easy reading,” said Garrett Byrne, principal of the Justice equality division, who launched the report at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.


While acknowledging that delays by the State in producing a national needs assessment for the Roma community, Byrne said that “the report is stronger for it”.


“Meaningful engagement with the Roma community must be informed by an understanding of and communication with the community itself,” he added. “Thanks to the research done in putting this report together, we have a much better picture of the Roma community living here in Ireland.”


Byrne noted that about 60 percent of Roma children in this study are Irish-born and that more members of the community will become Irish citizens in the future as they “have their families here”.


“Literacy obviously comes up as an issue and it is an obstacle to integration with the wider community itself as well as dealing with public services,” he said. “The existing provision of Government and ESF-funded English literacy classes in urban areas where Roma communities have settled is obviously a positive and a practical step in this regard.”


Other key issues highlighted by the report include racial discrimination, exclusion from mainstream society, and poverty – with 50 percent of participants saying they did not always have sufficient food or fuel for cooking or heating.


Gabi Muntean, a Roma and community working with Pavee Point, said: “During the research I met members of my community who could not put food on the table and who were living in houses that were completely unfit for human beings. It was very upsetting.


“It’s particularly hard to hear about the children living in overcrowded houses with rats, damp and sewerage. Some people said they did not have the basic supplies for new babies, such as nappies and baby clothes, and that children were going to school hungry and without lunch.”


More than four-fifths of Roma in Ireland surveyed said they had faced “discrimination in the street or a public place”, prompting Muntean to urge the Government to take “effective measures” to tackle anti-Roma racism “particularly towards Roma women”.


Other speakers at the launch included Anastasia Crickley of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission; and social policy analyst Professor Patricia Kennedy.


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