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Roma continue to face discrimination in Europe, report finds

May 24, 2012 |  4:30 am

Roma in Belgrade, Serbia

The Roma minority continues to face hardship and discrimination in Europe, according to a  report from European Union and United Nations agencies that underscores ongoing marginalization of the group, including forced evictions and violent attacks.

Four out of 10 Roma surveyed said someone in their household had to go hungry at least once in the past month because money was short. Nine out of 10 Roma, who also are known as Gypsies, live below the poverty line. And roughly half said they had been discriminated against as Roma in the past year, the report found.

All in all, "the results present a grim picture of the situation of the Roma surveyed," the report said.

Roma were behind other Europeans in education, employment and housing, from Spain to Slovakia. Disadvantages for Roma were apparent across all 11 countries included in the surveys, which polled more than 22,000 households.

"That is precisely what we find most shocking. We would have expected to find significant differences, but from the responses of the Roma people themselves and their neighbors, we see few differences,” Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos of the EU Agency on Fundamental Rights told the BBC.

Earlier this month, Roma were forced out of a Belgrade settlement by masked attackers who shouted: "Serbia for Serbs! Roma out of Serbia!" the European Roma Rights Center reported. The attack echoed a long line of assaults across Europe in recent years reported by the group, including at the hands of police.

An earlier EU report three years ago found that Roma reported the highest levels of perceived discrimination among European minorities. In the new surveys, discrimination against Roma was reported most often in Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic, where more than 60% said they had faced discrimination in the past year. The least common was Romania, where more than 25% said the same.

Though there are laws banning job discrimination against Roma, in most countries fewer than half of Roma were aware of them.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Protesters gather at a construction site for a future Roma settlement on the outskirts of Belgrade, Serbia, in April. Residents of the suburb clashed with riot police during protests against the city's plan to relocate homeless Roma from a shantytown in the city center into their neighborhood. Credit:  Marko Drobnjakovic/Associated Press

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