Experts urge Hungary to end 'benevolent segregation' of Roma

AP News
Posted: Sep 19, 2016 4:55 AM

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary should end the "benevolent segregation" of Roma children in schools, experts on the protection of national minorities said Monday.

A report by advisers to the Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights body, said the practice of separate classes for Roma where they are meant to "catch up" before continuing in mainstream education is ineffective and discriminatory.

The report noted a 2015 ruling by the Kuria, the supreme court, which "effectively declared segregation of Roma pupils legal in schools run by religious groups."

The advisory committee said in the report that it was "deeply concerned by this development running diametrically contrary to principles of integration and equal treatment" and highlighted a rise in the segregation of Roma schoolchildren in recent years.

Roma make up an estimated 8 percent of Hungary's population of nearly 10 million.

A combination of extreme poverty, unemployment and inadequate housing shorten the life expectancy of the Roma by 10 years compared to the Hungarian average, the report said.

On other topics, experts also found that the "uncompromising stance" on migration by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government "has fueled xenophobic and intolerant attitudes against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants." A survey, for example, found that 46 percent of Hungarian adults believed no asylum seekers should be allowed to enter the country.

The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Among the positive developments, the experts noted a significant rise in scholarship amounts awarded, including to Roma children.

"Various support schemes coupled with the hard work of the persons concerned, have resulted in the emergence of a small educated Roma elite capable of formulating and voicing Roma concerns," the report said, also observing that only 1 percent of Roma children continue to study after high school.

A "perceptible drop" in the number of anti-Semitic incidents was also reported.