Information on the Roma in the case of Belgium
There is an estimated number of about 10,000 Travellers living in Belgium. They are mostly of Belgian nationality and are characterized by their mobile lifestyle. For what concerns Roma, it is estimated in the Strategy that around 30,000 of them live in Belgium. The majority have kept their nationality from Eastern and Central European countries.
The Belgian Strategy for Roma inclusion distinguishes between the Roma and Travellers communities: “A distinction is made between Travellers (Manouches, Romani and Sinti) and more recent arrivals, who are mainly sedentary (Eastern European) Roma”. It should be noted that there are no specific numbers on these groups because collection of ethnic data is illegal and forbidden by law.
While the need for an integrated approach is also generally acknowledged in Belgian politics, it is clear that two policy approaches coexist: mainstreamed and targeted.
In Wallonia (French speaking Belgium), the inclusion of minorities generally takes place in wider policies and measures connected to socio-economic poverty and exclusion.
Integration policies are presented as inclusive, and hence built on the idea that “a poor person is a poor person”. Flanders, on the other hand, has developed separate policies and action plans targeting the Roma and Traveller minorities specifically.
The housing situation of Roma and Travellers, though characterised by distinct issues, remains significantly problematic. The current state of play indicates that there is no real in-depth reflection on the sources of housing fragility for these populations. In case of Roma, there is an increasing number of families living in homelessness, leading
to more and more unauthorized building occupations and to the recent developments of slums.
As for the Travellers, the main problem is the critical shortage of sites, both for residential and temporary stay. This scarcity comes along with repeated cases of unpermitted
encampments, generating tensions with local populations and often leading to evictions. There is still no sufficient nor compulsory measures organising Travellers’ temporary stay. In all three regions, the lack of binding measures is the main obstacle to significant change in Travellers’ housing and living conditions.
The Roma population in Belgium still suffers from poor medical conditions (linked to precarious living conditions, infectious diseases, malnutrition, poor dental health and other problems) and a very deficient access to healthcare. Still today, extreme poverty and social exclusion are likely the main explanatory factors. These issues amplify significantly for those in situation of homelessness and for those without a legal status in Belgium.
The schooling of Roma and Traveller children in Belgium is still a route filled with pitfalls. Amongst the main obstacles to a better school attendance is the deep poverty many Roma families live in, which is sometimes paired with situations of homelessness. When it comes to Travellers, it appears that the main reason for low schooling participation is that there is currently no education system adapted to a mobile lifestyle.
Discrimination against Roma is not tackled in a structural manner: so far, political commitment for Roma inclusion is still mostly determined by personal convictions and
willingness to act.
Roma Civil Monitor Coordinators:
NGO coalition members:
- Kham vzw, Brussels
- Esma asbl, Charleroi (Walonie)
- REU Jehipe, Sint Niklaas (Vlanders)
- Centrum Algemeen Welzijnswerk, Antwerp (Vlanders)
- Balkan LGBTQ, Brussels
RCM 1 (2017-2020) Belgium Reports:
Roma Civil Monitor (2017) Civil society monitoring report on implementation of the national Roma integration strategies in Belgium: Focusing on structural and horizontal preconditions for successful implementation of the strategy. ENGLISH – FRENCH
Roma Civil Monitor (2018) Civil society monitoring report on implementation of the national Roma integration strategy in Belgium: Assessing the progress in four key policy areas of the strategy ENGLISH – FRENCH