Social Platform co-hosts study visit “Creating perspectives for disadvantaged communities. Empowerment for Roma through self-organisation and participation“

On the 15th of September 2020, Social Platform co-organised a virtual study visit with Amaro Drom e.V. and Amaro Foro e.V. in Berlin entitled “Creating perspectives for disadvantaged communities. Empowerment for Roma through self-organisation and participation“.

Around 20 participants from EU and national level civil society organisations active in the field, representatives from various national ministries of social affairs and representatives from the European Commission joined the virtual visit.

The study visit presented the activities of both organisations.

First, Roman Bakuradze, Consultant for Educational Assignments from Amaro Drom e.V. presented the work of his organisation. One aspect of Amaro Drom’s work includes political education, e.g. through sensitisation workshops on antigypsyism, the situation of Roma communities in Germany and the issues that they face, such as discrimination, stigmatisation and exclusion. Another aspect are empowerment workshops for Roma youth. Amaro Drom manages the Jekhipe project in the framework of which events such as educational workshops for Roma and non-Roma people are organised to further learning about political, cultural and social topics related to the Roma community and getting to know each other, developing networks, with the aim of creating more Roma organisations in the different regions of Germany. He also highlighted various challenges faced by the organisations, including limited project funding periods, lack of positive media reporting about activities of Roma and migrant civil rights organisations and lack of attention from federal and local authorities. He also highlighted that the level of antigypsyism had increased with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Georgi Ivanov, Project manager at Amaro Foro e.V. presented his organisation and its work, focusing on two projects. First, he presented the contact point “Nevo Drom” that is project for new immigrants from Romania, Bulgaria as well as other EU states. It is oriented towards the needs of these people and works as a bridge between existing offers and self-help activities of the target group and empower them to deal with their issues independently in the long-term. The main focus of service provision is mediation with existing support systems and regular services. Together with free advice, the contact point of Amaro Foro e.V. also offers the following services:

  • Accompaniment and translation at social services, health institutions and city authorities;
  • Consulting on other institutions or advice centres;
  • Social work related to existing issues.

Topics that advice is provided on include finances/debts, living, employment, access to health and health insurance, education and others. In 2019, the project ensured more than 5.300 individual consultations. Issues highlighted involve individual and structural discrimination, racism and antigypsyism faced by Roma people in these various areas. Other issues relate to the insufficient or lacking implementation of EU and national law, lack of funding security, etc.

To animate one of these issues, a short, animated video about the access to housing and the living situation of Roma in Berlin was shown. The video can be watched here.

Next, Georgi Ivanov presented the documentation project for antigypsyism incidents in Berlin “Dosta”. The objective of the project is to document such incidents to disprove claims by authorities that such incidents do not exist. Antgypsyism incidents are documented in in 8 areas of life: access to authorities, housing, employment, health and medical care, education, access to justice, daily live, access to services. The project also monitors print media for antigypsyist reporting and offers victims of antigypsyism support if they wish to take action. Often incidents are underreported, and victims often do not dare to take action for fear of negative consequences or lack of awareness regarding their rights. Examples of antigypsyism include the request of unnecessary documents from public authorities, the assumption of crimes by police or a refusal to provide services to Roma people. It was mentioned that Germany does not have good legal instruments as the equal treatment law in Germany, is not effective and various state institutions are excluded from the obligations contained in it.

Following these presentations, the floor was opened for a question and & answer session with participants. Questions focused on the access of newly arrived Roma migrants to homeless shelters, the impact of COVID-19 on the provision of services by Amaro Drom e.V and Amaro Foro e.V. and the focus of consultations on issues and needs related to financial and personal security of Roma migrants that have recently arrived in Berlin.

More information the work of both organisations can be found on their respective websites.