Norway Roma treatment needs improving, says Council of Europe / News / The Foreigner

Norway Roma treatment needs improving, says Council of Europe. The Roma community in Oslo and how they are treated is cause for concern, the COE’s new report states. Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks makes his statements following his visit to Norway between 19th and 23rd January this year. He held discussions with state authorities, Human Rights structures, and non-governmental organisations. Review needed                                                       The past few years have seen several cases involving Norway’s Child Welfare Service and minors. Several families have left Norway to avoid dealing with the CWS.

humanrights, roma, beggars, oslo



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Norway Roma treatment needs improving, says Council of Europe

Published on Tuesday, 19th May, 2015 at 21:33 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson and Sarah Bostock   .

The Roma community in Oslo and how they are treated is cause for concern, the COE’s new report states.

Nils Muižnieks
The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights presented his new report on Norway, Monday.Nils Muižnieks
Photo: © Sandro Weltin/Council of Europe


Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks makes his statements following his visit to Norway between 19th and 23rd January this year. He held discussions with state authorities, Human Rights structures, and non-governmental organisations.

Review needed                                                      

The past few years have seen several cases involving Norway’s Child Welfare Service and minors. Several families have left Norway to avoid dealing with the CWS.

Last week, Aftenposten reported that people in Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and the Czech Republic advise families against taking their children to Norway. There are claims that the CWS separates them and puts them in ‘completely Norwegian’ foster homes.

One case involves two Czech children placed in two different foster homes due to allegations of parental abuse. Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, has asked his Norwegian counterpart Erna Solberg for assistance regarding this case.

Amongst Commissioner Nils Muižnieks’ concerns regarding the Roma community are extremely frequent uses of child protection measures to separate children from their families.

In a press release, he states that, “the Norwegian authorities must review Roma children’s alternative care decisions for their human rights compliance and provide support to Roma parents in exercising their parental role.”

“The best interests of the child should be a primary consideration. Preventing family separation and preserving family unity are important components of the child protection system,” he adds.

Commissioner Muižnieks also expresses concerns about Roma children’s low school attendance, recommending the development of programmes for mediators and teaching assistants to improve this, with authorities doing more to include Roma communities.

Begging issues                                          

Persecution in many countries means the Roma community is forced to move from one place to another. The Norwegian government recently proposed, but subsequently withdrew their bid for a nationwide ban on begging.

Commissioner Muižnieks welcomes this in his report, but remains concerned about vetoes on begging and the level of “sleeping rough”.

Southern Norway’s Arendal municipality introduced a ban on begging last year, which seemingly targeted the Roma community.

At the time, Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombudsman Sunniva Ørstavik declared “the debate has been marked by spiteful rhetoric based on many stereotypes of who these people are."

“A blanket ban on non-aggressive begging has a discriminatory impact on Roma immigrants and interferes with freedom of expression. Such bans should be repealed. The authorities should also ensure the sufficient availability of emergency accommodation to those in need, including immigrants,” remarks Commissioner Muižnieks.

He also points out that the arrival of Roma immigrants to Norway has been accompanied by worrying manifestations of anti-Gypsyism and hate speech, and that more should be done to prevent discrimination and this form of rhetoric.

The Council of Europe has also criticised Norway for failing to combat internet-based racism or help migrants sufficiently. Progress’ (FrP) Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion Solveig Horne has proposed legislation aimed at preventing differential treatment and discrimination.

Unclear

The Norwegian government says that the Commissioner’s report will be given careful consideration. At the same time, officials comment that the report lists over 60 Roma children in foster care, with a further 60 perhaps being vulnerable to intervention by the CWS in the future.

“The report is not clear as to whether these children are of non-immigrant Roma families or Roma immigrant families. The Ministry of Children, Equality, and Social Inclusion has no access to statistics as to children’s ethnic origin and is therefore not in a position to comment upon the numbers in the report,” they state, adding that Norway’s Child Welfare Act applies to all children.

Citing that the legislation primarily considers the child’s best interests, its “underlying assumption…is that children should grow up with their parents”. Moreover, great importance is placed “on a child’s right to car and protection from all forms of physical or mental violence injury, abuse, or neglect.”

According to officials, the measures that the CWS offers are voluntary ones designed to help to allow them to live with their families where possible. Both children and parents are given the right to be heard and influence where the child is to be placed if he/she cannot live with his/her parents.

“The [Child Welfare] Service will always try to ensure continuity in the child’s upbringing and the child’s religious, cultural, and religious background,” officials declare.

Crime increase

They also say that the number of foreign citizens begging in public places, “many of whom were from Romania”, increased from 2007 onwards.

“In the same period, we had an increase in criminal activities in public places, especially pick-pocketing and various forms of petty theft. Several such crimes were committed by Romanian citizens.”

Authorities “have no opinion on how many crimes were committed by people belonging to the Roma population”, as they “do not categorise people after any ethnic lines,” they remark, though.

“However, police reports from Oslo indicated that there were connections between people and groups involved in begging and those involved in criminal activities.”

Officials also mention the previous and current government’s responses to homelessness, disturbances in public places, and crime in relation to Commissioner Nils Muižnieks’ report.

Police and other authorities received an increasing number of complaints from the public about groups of foreign citizens pitching camp, it is stated. Many of these concerned litter and unsanitary conditions.”

“Several complaints also concerned the high number of beggars, and the demanding way in which many beggars were conducting their business,” say the bureaucrats.

Dampened

Police have intervened and taken other steps too. One was creating a special police group in Oslo to investigate pick-pocketing in public places.

“The police in Oslo also carried out a number of other preventative measures, such as changing the rules for parking in certain areas, to avoid large groups of beggars congregating to spend the evenings and nights in their car,” say officials.

Regarding anti-Gypsyism, they state that “there has been a notable easing of tensions which can be seen in the manner the public and politicians now voice their opinions about beggars” since a peak in 2012/2013.

“This coincides with a shift in the more low-key way that many beggars now conduct their business,” they conclude.

The Norwegian Parliament adopted the reformed Act on the National Institution for Human Rights on 28th April this year. It enters into force on 1st July 2015.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks’ full report on Norway, which also includes sections on human rights of people with disabilities, and using coercion regarding care of people with psycho-social and intellectual disabilities, can be read here.



Published on Tuesday, 19th May, 2015 at 21:33 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson and Sarah Bostock   .

This post has the following tags: humanrights, roma, beggars, oslo.





  
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