Central Council of German Sinti and Roma welcomes ruling by Hungary’s Supreme Court on the school segregation of Roma children

Hungary’s Supreme Court has now upheld a ruling by the Debrecen Court of Appeal which had already sentenced the Hungarian state to pay damages for the illegal segregated schooling of around 60 Roma children in the eastern Hungarian town of Gyöngyöspata in September 2019. The state authorities had refused to pay the money and appealed. Hungary’s Supreme Court has now ordered financial compensation of 99 million forints (280,000 euros) for the families affected.

“The ruling of the Supreme Court is an important signal for the implementation of equal educational participation for Roma in Hungary”, said Romani Rose, Chairman of the Central Council, today. “The ruling clearly shows that the separate education of children on an ethnic basis is not only wrong but also harmful to the state. The ruling also shows that there are still courts in Hungary that are bound by the principles of the rule of law. This decision is a signal to Hungarian society and the Hungarian government to clearly oppose the increasing antigypsyism in state and society”, Rose continued. ” The lost years cannot be returned to the affected children. For them a lasting damage has been caused with regard to their future chances. It must now be expected of the responsible authorities that they actually fulfil their legal obligation to guarantee equal access to education for all children”, said the Chairman of the Central Council.

Despite their legal prohibition in 2003, the school segregation of Roma children, which systematically excludes them from access to qualified education, is still widespread. The village of Gyöngyöspata has become a symbol of school segregation in Hungary. As early as 6 December 2012, the Regional Court of Cheb ruled that the segregation of Roma children was unlawfully practised in Gyöngyöspata. Roma children were purposefully grouped together in separate classes with a reduced curriculum and also accommodated in a separate room on the ground floor of the school.

In 2016, the EU Commission initiated infringement proceedings against Hungary on the grounds of structural discrimination against Roma children in the field of education. The EU Commission made it clear that it is against the EU Anti-Racism Directive (2000/43/EC) to allocate Roma children to separate schools or classes consisting exclusively of Roma children who follow a curriculum at a low level, and to classify a disproportionate number of these children as slightly mentally disabled due to their social disadvantage.[1]

In March and April 2011, Gyöngyöspata was the scene of uniformed marches by extreme right-wing “civil defence forces”, which for weeks terrorised the Roma living there. The marches were only half-heartedly stopped by the state and only after national and international protests by civil society organisations.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/1/2017/DE/COM-2017-458-F1-DE-MAIN-PART-1.PDF, letzter Aufruf 15.05.2020, S. 4.