ERRC: Children's Rights Concerns in Hungary

Budapest, 13. 9. 2005, 12:58 (ERRC)

Today, the European Roma Right Centre submitted a shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) concerning Romani children's rights issues in Hungary. The CRC will formally review Hungary's compliance with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child in January 2006. Prior to that, in October 2005, a pre-sessional working group of the Committee will meet to assess preliminary issues and main areas of focus with respect to Hungary. The ERRC's comments are intended to provide information on the situation of Romani children in Hungary, to supplement the Hungarian government's report to the Committee.

The ERRC comments focus on the following issues:

Anti-discrimination law: Hungary adopted a comprehensive anti-discrimination law in December 2003. The ERRC shadow report addresses areas of concern with respect to the scope of the law, as well as its implementation.

Ethnic statistical data: The ERRC submission also addresses issues related to the lack of adequate statistical data on the situation of Roma including Romani children in Hungary.

Child protection: In its discussion of issues related to the best interests of Romani children in Hungary, the ERRC describes the worrying phenomenon of high rates of removal of children from Romani families. The shadow report also notes problematic features of the child protection system in Hungary. The ERRC notes imprecision in the definition of key terms operative in the child protection system, as well as the influence of arbitrary criteria in decisions to remove Romani children from families. The ERRC also calls the attention of the Committee to reports of racial discrimination in adoption and related matters.

Racial segregation in schools: The ERRC submission notes very high rates of racial segregation in schooling. The ERRC also provides the Committee with statistical data on rates of advancement to secondary education by Romani children, noting differences in rates of advancement between children coming from schools with greater or lesser percentages of Romani children.

In addition, the ERRC notes a number of areas of concern in which problematic policies and practices in Hungary with respect to Roma generally have pernicious effects on Romani children. These include:

Health care: According to some studies, approximately 17% of the total Romani population in Hungary lives in settlements where there is no general practitioner. The ERRC shadow report also presents data about discrimination experienced in hospitals and other health care institutions or by general practicioners, as well as worrying statistics concerning the refusal of provision of ambulance service.

Housing: Forced evictions, racial segregation and refusal to allocate social housing for Roma are practices that dramatically worsen the housing situation of Roma, as well as hindering the ability of Roma to realize a range of other fundamental human rights. In its shadow report to the Committee, the ERRC notes concrete cases concerning the above phenomena, as well as surveys concluding that many Romani settlements in Hungary are manifestly inadequate for living. According to the World Bank, 54.9% of Romani households in Hungary do not have access to hot running water, 34.7% do not have access to cold running water. More than half of the houses do not have indoor toilets and 13.2% have one or more members sleeping on earthen floors in their homes.