Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands experience considerable social disadvantage and exclusion.

Discrimination of Roma and Sinti

Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands - more commonly referred to as "gypsies" - experience considerable social disadvantage and exclusion. The lost ground among this population group in participation in education and the job market exceeds that of other ethnic minorities.

Despite this, the Roma and Sinti hardly ever report incidents of discrimination. Efforts of the Dutch government to improve the position of Roma and Sinti leave much to be desired.

These are among the most important conclusions drawn in a study about the discrimination of Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands conducted within the framework of the project Racism and Extreme Right Monitor. In addition to existing literature and sources on the subject, the researchers consulted experts and advocates including people from the Roma and Sinti community.

Distrust

It is striking that the Roma and Sinti are not particularly inclined to reveal their experiences with discrimination. Incidents are not reported and official complaints about discrimination are seldom filed with the police. The mutual distrust that exists between the Roma and Sinti and Dutch society plays a huge role here. Besides this, the language problems of the Roma and Sinti - as well as the fear that complaining will worsen their situation instead of improve it - also contribute to this.

1928: Twee Belgische gendarmes observeren een groep Roma bij het Drielandenpunt in Vaals.
1928: Two Belgian police officers observe a group of Romani near the Dutch border with Belgium and Germany. (Photo: Spaarnestad Photo)

Vicious cycle

According to the researchers, these issues are extremely deep-rooted and it is vital that this vicious cycle of mutual distrust be broken. A central role is set aside here for governmental agencies in the Netherlands, which need to focus on the relationship between the communities of Roma and Sinti and the Dutch society. The researchers believe that success can only be booked if the government makes a long-term commitment to cooperate with Roma and Sinti special interest groups working at the national and local level.

Disadvantage

Disadvantage and exclusion are inseparable from the social status of the Roma and Sinti. At best their position in society could be called troubling and their disadvantages in education and the job market are immense, exceeding those of other minority groups. The lack of enough encampments and sites in the Netherlands leads to housing problems for Roma and Sinti who live in caravans.

Cultural differences

Huge cultural differences are a primary reason for this problem, as well as the mutual misunderstanding that persists between the Roma and Sinti community and Dutch society. This has led to a habitual atmosphere of mutual distrust in which prejudice and unequal treatment have become ingrained. Many policies of the government also reflect this. In addition, it is painful that the Dutch government acknowledges its responsibility towards the Roma and Sinti in its foreign policy commitments, but neglects to do the same at home. Efforts made by the government to reduce the marginal position of Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands are almost negligible.

Contents

This report was researched and written by Peter R. Rodrigues (Anne Frank House) and Maaike Matelski (University of Amsterdam).

The report contains the following chapters:

  1. Introduction;
  2. Definitions and methodology;
  3. Migration;
  4. Social position;
  5. Social disadvantage and exclusion;
  6. Conclusions and recommendations.

Peter R. Rodrigues and Maaike Matelski, Racism and Extreme Right Monitor: Roma and Sinti. Amsterdam: Anne Frank House / Leiden University, 2003. – 68 p. - Translation by Lorraine T. Miller.

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