ECMI was part of the CAHROM thematic visit in Georgia between 21 and 23 June 2017. Our team shared the ECMI expertise on Roma issues during the CAHROM meetings and with the local media in Tbilisi.
The Council of Europe Ad hoc Committee of Experts on Roma and Traveller Issues (CAHROM) held its thematic visit in Georgia between 21 and 23 June 2017. The visit on the situation of eastern Roma groups (Roma, Lom/Bosha/Posha, Dom/Garachi/Karachi, Abdal, etc.) and possible policy responses was organised by the Department of Migration, Repatriation and Refugee Issues of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia. The visiting group of experts included representatives of the neighbouring countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey) and experts from the ECMI and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
The thematic visit covered various aspects of issues related to the Roma in the region: the general situation and challenges such as information on self-identification, census results, estimates, research results, and state policies towards members of these communities in Georgia and partner countries. The presentations also touched upon specific issues such as access to education, healthcare, youth at risk, Romani culture, and participation. Presentations and interventions were delivered by the representatives of different public or non-governmental organisations, among them the ECMI Caucasus representative Ms. Lena Proshikian.
The international experts and the members of the CoE CAHROM received detailed and elaborate information on the situation of Eastern Roma in Georgia, through the presentations as well as through the field visit to the Roma settlement in the Kakheti region. The discussions and the field visit revealed the challenges that these communities face, in daily life or in terms of public life. Some of the issues raised were the lack of research and data, participation and access to education. “Most strategies and plans on Roma focus on four main pillars: housing, education, health and employment”, noted Dr. Zora Popova, ECMI Senior Research Associate and the representative of the ECMI at CAHROM. “However, it is important to highlight that successful integration cannot occur without awareness raising, empowerment and participation”. Regarding the case of Georgia, Dr. Popova stated that the “smaller size of a community does not mean less responsibility of the state.”
Following the CAHROM event in Tbilisi, Ms Tamari Bulia, ECMI Communications and Outreach Coordinator, was invited to the talk show “Our Georgia” on the Georgian Public Broadcaster. She shared some of the ECMI’s experience in working on and with Roma and also spoke about minorities in Germany and the Danish-German border region. The ECMI’s experience in Georgia and Balkans, as well as common problems that these two regions have in terms of Roma rights, were the main focus of the discussion between Ms. Bulia and the talk show hosts Mr. Koba Chopliani (Office of the Public Defender of Georgia), Mr. Gia Gugushvili (Journalist). While Ms. Bulia shared international perspectives on Roma issues, the local realities in Georgia were presented in further details by Ms. Rusudan Asatiani, Head of Migration and Repatriation Division at the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons, Accommodation and Refugees in Georgia. “In spite of differences in the numbers, exploring the case of Georgia has revealed to us many commonalities to the other cases that we’ve seen in Western Balkans. For example, in addition to the lack of awareness within the Roma communities on their rights, there is also a considerable lack of awareness on Roma communities themselves: relevant data, research, mapping”, shared Ms. Bulia. “Also, there is a lack of coordination among governmental institutions on this topic”.
Previous Roma-related activities by ECMI Caucasus
The Roma people in Georgia are one of the least protected and marginalized ethnic groups. Unlike other ethnic communities, the Roma have attracted very limited public attention over the years. Modest positive changes for the community have been seen only since 2008.
ECMI has been one of the first organizations in Georgia to start dealing with the issues faced by the Roma community. As an entry point for engagement with this group, ECMI prepared two policy papers in 2008 and 2009 outlining the history and contemporary life of the Roma in Georgia:
“No Way Out: An Assessment of the Romani Community in Georgia” by David Szakonyi (ECMI Working Paper #39, February 2008). Download the paper here
“A Way Out? Initial Steps Towards Addressing Romani Issues in Georgia” by Giorgi Sordia (ECMI Issue Brief # 21, May 2009). Download the paper here
A series of activities have been implemented by the ECMI team in Georgia ranging from training in basic human and social rights for selected Roma community members, to facilitation in the establishment of two Roma community based organizations, in Leninovka village and in Kobuleti’s Roma settlement. Moreover, school textbooks and clothing were distributed in both settlements. Given that many of the members of the Kobuleti Roma community appeared to be talented musicians they were also supplied with musical instruments in order for them to organize a music group.
The latest ECMI project on Roma in Georgia was implemented in 2016. The overall objective of the project was to promote tolerance and non-discrimination, and empower the Roma community of Georgia. The project involved four components: community emancipation, media, the fight against discrimination, and research, and will be concluded by a state-level conference in October 2016. The project, entitled “Towards Roma Inclusion in Georgia”, was supported by the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tbilisi.