Rights group to pursue Belgium over Roma treatment

20th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The International Federation for Human Rights said Monday it will pursue Belgium over mistreatment of Roma in the Council of Europe, the continent's key rights referee.

Belgium's French-speaking League of Human Rights said the complaint related to housing and transit sites for travellers.

The complaint to the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe's economic and social rights committee would claim a violation of its European Social Charter, which covers 47 European states.

"The Belgian state, to differing degrees in its three (federal) regions, is clearly violating the European Social Charter," the Belgian group's deputy head Veronique Van Der Plancke told Le Soir newspaper.

She said the complaint would focus on "aspects linked to housing" and would raise questions about Belgian housing provision for the poor or homeless.

The southern French-speaking region of Wallonia "is even more at fault than Flanders", the Dutch-speaking north, in terms of how it deals with Roma Gypsies and travellers, League of Human Rights spokesman David Morelli told AFP.

Flanders offers about 30 sites enabling some 474 travellers' groups to set up camp, whereas only one transit site has been set up in Wallonia for dozens of groups, Van Der Plancke said.

She said that local authority rules prohibiting vehicles to stay longer than 24 hours in any one site did not meet the "concrete" needs of travellers.

Since 2004 four countries have been condemned by the Council of Europe over provision of facilities for Roma: Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and, last October, France.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered French police to dismantle Gypsy camps and expel foreign-born travellers, triggering a string of rows with EU officials and partners at last week's summit in Brussels.

© 2010 AFP

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