Ensuring the social inclusion of the Roma in Latvia

General situation in Latvia

Despite the fact that there is a National Programme for Promotion of Tolerance, which includes research and problem solving related to minority and Roma, our experience shows that there is a special need for programme, which could help to exercise principle of equal rights in national policy directly attributable to the Roma.

Racism against Gypsies, like Jews, in Europe and elsewhere has been identified as a specific problem. In Latvia oppression of this group is not as strong as possible, elsewhere in Europe. Roma culture is integral part of Latvian culture. Roma have inhabited Latvia since the 16th century. The Roma have managed to maintain their language, culture, tradition, folklore - the oral folk creations. Gypsy (Roma), folklore is extensive, and the Roma themselves believe in it and take care of it. Folklore is very diverse, such as expressions, proverbs, beliefs, and folk songs.
According to Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs data in 2010 there are 8570 Roma living in Latvia (0.38% of the total population in the country), and 93,7% of them are Latvian citizens, but population researchers estimate, that there might be approximately 15 000 Roma inLatvia. Most Roma speak the Latvian language, so there are no language and communication barriers between the Roma and other citizens.
Roma are the only Latvian minority, which doesn't have constant country, that is why they are not able to get support in transnational level.Unfortunately, the community of Roma is widespread negative stereotypes. Media occasionally appear in the information about racism or discrimination against the Roma. Perhaps it is because a gypsy lifestyle and views differ from the Latvian accepted standards of behavior. But despite the disagreements, Latvians becoming more tolerant of Gypsies and tries to accept differences. We have learned that it is possible to learn from the Roma culture and traditions and gain new life experiences and perspective on different things.
There are still some important researches, that should be done to improve our knowledge about our fellows and members of the society.

Situation in education

The last census data (year 2000) shows that only 7.9% Gypsies have a secondary education and only 26 Gypsies have Higher Education. 24.3% of Roma, who are older than 15 years, education is less than 4 classes (Primary school level). 25.2% of Roma have not indicated their Education level at all. According to National Employment Agency data in 2003, there are 39 registered illiterate unemployed Gypsies, but it is not possible to determine the exact number of illiterate Roma.
Involvement in general education and pre-school education attendance is a particular problem of Roma children. Although since 2003 Latvian national legislation provides 5 - 6 years old children compulsory preparing for school, many Roma parents still don't know it. thus from the very beginning of education Roma children without adequate preparation for school are in unequal situation with other children.

Employment situation

In Latvia there are very few Roma who have been involved in long-term formal employment relationship. As mentioned in ECRI (European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance ) report, "...As in many other European countries, the Latvian Roma are located in a difficult economic situation. Only 2% of them have permanent job, and unemployment is very high. This situation is actual because of many factors like lack of education and professional training and the fact that members of community are not informed of their rights. Stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination also have an impact on the Gypsies.''

Society attitude, intolerance and discrimination against the Roma community.

Latvian majority of the population does not have direct, intense contact with the Roma in education or employment. The lack of everyday experience and contacts is the basis for the creation of prejudice against the Roma. Latvian people interacting with the Roma have emerged on the market or on the street (75.5%).
According to research carried out in 2003 ''The Roma position in Latvia'' only 12.8%  of all respondents think that Gypsies are well integrated in Latvian society. 71% respondents say, that in Latvia the Roma create their own closed communities, which means, that there is segregation of Roma.
In society there are fear and stigma of contact with the Roma. For example, survey data show, that 43% of Latvian inhabitants don't want to be Gypsy neighbors. Another survey shows that if people had Gypsy neighbor, their behavior would be much more cautious - 52.4%.
Despite the numerous marginalisation features of the Roma community, to ensure effective community inclusion in society, integration process should be double-sided, including both community interests representatives and all Latvian society participation.


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