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Fighting marginalisation

Europe is home to groups of people that regularly encounter severe discrimination and prejudice. These can include immigrant communities that concentrate in suburban areas; those that choose a different lifestyle, such as itinerant travellers; and the Roma. As well as offering education and training opportunities, ESF projects are helping break down the multiple barriers they face to getting work and being part of everyday European society.

Roma are one of the biggest ethnic minorities in the EU. An estimated 6 million live in different Member States, often under very difficult conditions. They are marginalised in many different ways. Illiteracy rates are high and educational attainment is extremely low; sometimes because there are no local schools, or because Roma children are not accepted into schools. In addition, there are very high school drop-out rates among young Roma for a complex variety of reasons. With few or no skills or qualifications, and confronted by ingrained prejudice, it is not surprising that Roma people find it extremely difficult to get work and enjoy the social and financial benefits that employment brings.

The ESF can improve the integration of Roma through a wide variety of often innovative projects in areas such as health services, counselling, education, training, and guidance for the self-employed.

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  • Teachers in schools with Roma children are trained to deal with the particular issues they may face – sometimes helped by mediators and assistants recruited from local communities.
  • Successful Roma role models are promoted to young Roma in campaigns to improve their motivation to succeed. Families and whole communities are engaged in the effort to improve school performance.
  • Universities and training institutions are training young Roma in medical and social protection skills which they can take back to their communities to help raise living standards.
  • Developing the role of Roma women in their communities is another focus. ESF projects support them in setting up their own craft enterprises – giving the training and financial support they need. Elsewhere, they are acquiring recognised health-worker skills to help them get jobs in the health sector.

Across Europe, Roma job-seekers are participating in education and training opportunities that can improve their job prospects and help them get work or set up in self-employment. ESF activities are also combatting Roma employment in the ‘grey market’ where health and social protection is often missing.