Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands still badly off

25 July 2016

Despite small improvements, the social position of Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands is still cause for worry, as is shown in the research report of Risbo, following up on the monitor Inclusion of Roma and Sinti by Movisie in 2013. A summary, a comparison and a look towards the future.

The health situation of Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands is still much worse than that of other Dutch people. Many of them live in bad housing. Teenage marriages are no exception and virginity before marriage is an absolute must for girls. Roma and Sinti are strongly underrepresented in higher education, as very few girls and boys go to university. And if they do go to university, they often keep their background a secret as they fear discrimination.

Roma and Sinti also often experience discrimination at work and in job interviews. Most of them have no paid employment. Poverty remains a big problem. They are strongly suspicious of institutions and governments and many Roma and Sinti two years later still do not feel they are being heard. In short: respondents in the current monitor have more or less the same experiences in various domains than the people who responded to the monitor Inclusion Roma and Sinti that Movisie conducted in 2013.

Small steps

The research report from 2015 does show that there have been slight changes for the good in some fields. They feel that the positive development with regard to participation in education shown in 2013 is still continuing. School absenteeism is possibly decreasing. The same goes for the freedom of choices of girls: despite a strong emphasis on safeguarding their virginity, girls slowly seem to have more space to make their own choices in the field of employment, education and marriage. The respondents also feel that young people are smoking less and are more active in sports.

'New Roma'

The current monitor pays specific attention to ‘new Roma’. These are the Roma who came to the Netherlands after the accession to the EU of Eastern European countries in the beginning of the 21st century. The employment situation of those ‘new Roma’ turns out to be even worse than that of Roma and Sinti who have lived in the Netherlands for a while already. The ‘new Roma’ are primarily seasonal labourers, they work without paying taxes, hardly make use of services and moreover live in abomi-nable circumstances. This group remains mostly out of sight of government.

Efforts are needed

It is hardly surprising that the situation of Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands has changed little since 2013. Two years is a very short period in which to solve huge problems such as poverty, health disadvantages or discrimination. However, change does not just come about. If we want to make sure that there will be more positive developments in two years’ time, it is important to invest in initiatives and projects that work towards this.

The big question is: how do we make sure that the situation of Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands improves at a higher speed? Strengthening local organization and people is an important condition. It is hopeful that the study in 2015 shows that Roma and Sinti are more often organized in self-organisations. It is important to support and facilitate this development. The biggest challenge for agencies and local governments who wish to cooperate with Roma and Sinti is to change the distrust, sometimes with both parties, into mutual trust.

Roma and Sinti are the key to change

In order to improve the situation, it is crucial that Roma and Sinti themselves are the key to changes. Roma and Sinti self-organisations are able to apply for funding to improve the housing situation of Roma and Sinti with the Ministry of Welfare’s reparation funds. Various municipalities already are able to demonstrate good examples of such approaches. In order to make the most of these experiences, it is important that agencies and governments exchange knowledge of successful approaches. The Platform Integration & Society works to distribute several good examples. At the same time the Platform wishes to start supporting the initiatives and self-organisations of Roma and Sinti. Together, Roma, Sinti, professionals, volunteers and local administrations can make sure that there will be no need for future Social Inclusion monitors.

Do you know of successful approaches to improve the situation of Roma and Sinti? Let us know! Please send an email to Bard Briels.