top of page

Bosnia without horizon

Roma people are one of the poorest and discriminated minorities in Europe. Their nomadic habits and strong traditions make more difficult their participation on the Society. In comparison with Romania, the Greek Roma communities are more integrated and give a value to having some formation. The women have also more rights and try to get involved in the social live. Nevertheless, the premature marriage and the tribal structures of power complicate their personal improvement. For all the community, one of the main challenges is to find a job, due to the prejudices against them.


Location:         Volos, Greece

Date:                 01-04th October 2014

Equipment:     Canon 400D, Lens Canon 18x55mm

Roma people are one of the poorest and discriminated minorities in Europe. Their nomadic habits and strong traditions make more difficult their integration. In spite of the institutional efforts, they continue to beaten as a work. Their main problem is the unemployment, but on the other site, the families don’t support the Education of their children. “Why must my son go to school, if he can bring money from the street?”. Almost all of them don’t finish the High School. These images of Örkö (community inside the city) and Nagyborosnyó (village) show the lake of basic necessities and the rural way of life. The photos were taken during the training course ‘Human Rights – Roma Rights’, organised by Asociata Youth Media, in Sfantu Gheorge, Romania.


Location:         Sfantu Gheorghe, Romania

Date:                 29th June - 5th July 2014

Equipment:     Canon 400D, Lens Canon 18x55mm

Photo Report: The Roma of Central and Eastern Europe


AITOR SÁEZ / Romania, 03/01/2015


Since 1989, many Roma in the former Soviet bloc countries have been suffering disproportionately, having been integrated in the new market economy with increased problems of discrimination. Despite some improvements over the last decade, the Roma’s problems in Eastern Europe have been accentuated since the fall of communism.


Due to their ethnic complexions, nomadic life, strong hierarchies, and sacred rituals, the Roma people have becomevictimsof marginalisation and accusations throughout history. Nevertheless, during the communist era, for instance, the Romanian and Hungarian governments tried to force Roma communities to adapt to the communist way of life and settle them in big cities. Widespread benefits such as access to housing, health care and jobs were guaranteed. In some cases, communists tried to encourage integration by forcing Roma people to live in the same buildings with local residents. But the local residents moved out as soon as the communist regime fell.


For the majority of the estimated six million Roma in the post-Communist countries, the inclusion in Central and Eastern Europe meant the end of acceptable living standards, rather than the opening for democracy and freedom. The new era of supposed economic growth was characterised by unemployment and exclusion of the majority of the local Roma people.


As the Migration Policy Institute estimates, Romania, with 1.8 million Roma, has the largest Roma population in terms of number in Europe, as they make up about eight per cent of the country’s 22.9 million inhabitants. However, according to the 2011 census, Romania’s Roma population numbers around 620,000 people. In Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, and Serbia, the Roma population is estimated to be between 200,000 and 800,000 per country. On average, Slovakia and Bulgaria have some of the greatest percentages of Roma people integrated in their population, with 10 and 8 per cent respectively.


With roughly 70 per cent of unemployed Roma people in most of the countries, the lack of inclusion in labour markets is a key factor in the integration process. In some cases, like in the Czech Republic, the rate of unemployment is as high as 85 per cent. When the liberal economy emerged in these countries, the Roma people faced discrimination in access to jobs and suffered harassment.


One of the major causes that also justifies the limitations in accessing labour market is the shortage of basic education. In Romania, nearly half of the Romani’s population was illiterate in 2001. In Bulgaria, three out of four Roma, around 400,000 people, do not have an elementary school education. Due to the authorities’ lack of interest to integrate the Roma communities in the educational system, there is a sense of futility as far as going to school is concerned, a sense which is wide spread among many Roma families.


In addition, many difficulties of the settlement of Roma people in cities are caused largely by their rejection by non-Roma population which leads to marginalisation and violation of basic human rights. For instance, in Slovakia, half of the Roma population reside in excluded Roma neighbourhoods, among which some 50,000 Roma still remain in 281 segregated settlements, many of which lack water or electricity.


The situation was slightly improved as a result of the desire of most Eastern countries to enter the European Union in 2004. The Copenhagen Criteria for EU membership required to implement new legislations, launching Roma programmes for integration. Slovakia doubled in one year the number of assistants in grammar schools to help Roma children learn Slovak. In Romania, generous European funds supported arrangements in the educational methods and building schools. Other projects in Bulgaria also enabled equal access to schools.


Nevertheless, one of the main problems still remaining among the Eastern countries is the integration of the Roma people in the decision making processes and public institutions. Historically, Roma learned that collaboration with the authorities does not always bring benefits to the community. On the other hand, there is a governmental inability to empower Roma people and include them in the social and political system.


The unknown number of Roma population throughout Eastern Europe portrays the lack of interest of the public administration to provide services and plans to the Roma communities, as well as the infrequent data collection, the Roma’s mobility, and the Roma’s denial to register as “Roma” for fear of being stigmatised.


In the sphere of politics, there is still a greater degree of discrimination concerning the Roma. In the last decades they were allowed to create their own political parties, but these played rather a symbolic role than an efficient tool of power. Even when political actions concern the Roma people, they are not involved in their implementation.


In the same vein, the last European ambitious programme for Roma rights, the “Decade of Roma Inclusion”, launched in 2005, faced a lack of Roma participation in the process of planning and implementation. It gave the opportunity to NGOs to widen their fields of action and advocate in other non-European countries, but their results were limited. Roma leaders complained that the communities did not see the benefits in their everyday reality. Moreover, it seems difficult to assess the results of its implementation, again due to the lack of data.


The European efforts are decreasing the levels of inequality and marginalisation among the Roma population, but its living standards still remain far behind European levels. In spite of external financial support, which is not always efficiently implemented, only their integration in local structures will ensure the involvement of Roma people in the processes themselves.


Aitor Sáez is a freelancer based in Greece, working for the UNESCO Club of Serres. He specialises in migration and minorities issues, reporting from Europe, Turkey and South America. To see his work, visit: He was a participant of 2014 Solidarity Academy.



Photo report 'TheRoma of Central and Eastern Europe', published in the online edition of New Eastern Europe, the 3rd January 2015.

bottom of page