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Report: EU failing to integrate Roma

Despite an official goal to improve the lives of Europe's Roma population by 2020, the ethnic group continues to live in poverty and isolation, an EU survey shows. Nevertheless, the findings did reveal some improvements.

European Union efforts to integrate the Roma minority group has failed, according to a study by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). The FRA on Tuesday published results showing that 80 percent of Europe's Roma were living below the levels designated as the poverty line in their countries of residence.

"The levels of deprivation, marginalization and discrimination of Europe's largest minority is a grave failure of law and policy in the EU and its member states," said FRA's director, Michael O'Flaherty, in a statement.

Persistent poverty

According to the FRA survey, interviewing around 25,000 people and 8,000 self-identifying Roma, Spain had the highest rate of Roma living at risk of poverty at 98 percent. Greece, with 96 percent, and Croatia, with 93 percent, were close behind. By comparison, 17 percent of the EU population as a whole lives below the poverty line.

Roma in Spanien (Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

Children play in a Roma shanty town on the outskirts of Madrid in 2014

Some 6 million Roma people live in the EU. The group has endured centuries of discrimination and social exclusion which continues today, despite an official EU policy of protecting their rights.

The survey also revealed other indications of Roma poverty. One in three respondents live without running water and nearly half of them (46 percent) reported that they have no bathroom, shower, or indoor toilet.

Half of all Roma youth between the ages of six and 24 are not enrolled in school, the survey found.

There is some good news, however. The number of Roma with access to electricity and a personal living space has improved in every survey country since the last study in 2011.

Attempts at inclusion

The FRA findings cast doubt on the EU's strategy to improve the situation for European Roma. The EU's 2011 Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies set out to increase the group's access to education, employment, healthcare and housing by 2020.

The FRA did identify several programs in EU member states that it considers "useful for their communities." The findings highlighted an after-school tutoring program for Roma students in Jyväskylä, Finland, and a program in Hrabusice, Slovakia, in which Roma and non-Roma school children asked their own community to identify needs.

The survey's authors offered several recommendations for improving the lives of the Roma. They emphasized the importance of ensuring that Roma children have access to education and recommended creating more work opportunities for Roma, especially for women and young people.

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