Article “While France Deports Roma Gypsies, Spain Integrates Them”

Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

An informative, if somewhat embellished, account of integration initiatives of Roma in Spain was presented in Time magazine in an article by Andres Cala “While France Deports Roma, Spain Integrates Them.”

Some of the most relevant facts are as follows:

  • Spain spends c. €36 million a year on Roma integration, making good use of EU´s social funds.
  • About half of Spanish Roma are homeowners; only an estimated 5% still live in makeshift camps.
  • Practically all Roma in Spain have access to health care.
  • Practically all Roma children start elementary school (although only about one third actually finish it), and an estimated 85% of Spanish Roma are literate.

Furthermore, the article notes:

Spain’s two-pronged integration approach has been instrumental in those results, pairing access to mainstream social services with targeted inclusion programs. For example, Roma can have access to public housing and financial aid on the condition that they send their children to schools and health care facilities. Then there’s the Gypsy Secretariat Foundation Acceder program, which experts say is one of the best integration initiatives in Europe. The program takes young, unemployed Gypsies and teaches them technical skills and helps them earn the equivalent of a high school degree. At the end, they are placed in jobs through a series of agreements with private companies.

While the Time article may gloss over some of rather serious issues, such as deeply rooted prejudices, discrimination and other racism-related problems Roma experience in Spain on a daily basis, the question posed by the article in the end appear a legitimate one: can the rest of Europe replicate Spain’s success?