European Roma Rights Centre v. Portugal (Complaint No. 61/2010)
Collective complaint under the Revised European Social Charter by the European Roma Rights Center, alleging violations of the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection (Article 16), the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion(Article 30), the right to adequate housing (Article 31) and the non-discrimination clause (E). European Social Charter. CESCR. CERD.
The Committee analyzed three issues regarding the right of Roma to housing in Portugal: the “precarious and difficult housing conditions for a large part of the Roma community”; “the high number of Roma families that live in segregated settings”; and “the inadequacy of re-housing programmes for the Roma community in terms of their family composition, cultural habits and ways of life”. The Committee made references not only to the European Social Charter, but also to article 11 of the CESCR, article 5.e.iii of the CERD, and Recommendation (2005) 4 of the Committee of Ministers to member states with regard to Roma housing conditions in Europe.
The Committee noted that the fact that a disproportionate number of Roma live in poor housing conditions should “trigger a positive obligation of authorities to take such [disproportion] into account and respond accordingly”. The Committee also added that the right to adequate housing “includes a right to fresh water resources” and the provision of an “adequate space”, which is “structurally secure”, protected from “harsh weather conditions and other threats to health”, accessible in terms of “public services, employment, health-care services, schools and other social facilities”, and “culturally suited”. In the case of Roma families, there is a need to take family size into account as well as their culture of casual gatherings, which is a basis for the bonds of solidarity in the community. Finally, the Committed highlighted that housing policies should avoid “social segregation of ethnic minorities or immigrants”. According to the Charter, both direct and indirect discrimination, (the latter consisting of “failing to take due and positive account of all relevant differences or failing to take adequate steps to ensure rights”), are forbidden.
The Committee unanimously concluded that there had been violations to articles 16, 30 and 31 of the European Social Charter, interpreted in conjunction with article E. It also recommended that an award of € 2,000 be paid to the complainant’s organization.
(European Roma Rights Centre v. Portugal (Complaint No. 61/2010))
Last updated on September 2013.
The case has been followed up by the Committee of Ministers. In its Resolution CM/ResChS (2013) of April 2013 (provided below), the Committee of Ministers welcome the government’s “initiative of setting up a national strategy for the integration of the Roma community” and “looks forward” to Portugal’s next report regarding its conformity to the revised European Social Charter.
It is significant that the Committee stressed the State’s positive obligations with regard to housing rights, including with respect to ethnic minorities. According to RAXEN Thematic Study on Housing Conditions of Roma and Travellers – Portugal (2009), “an estimated 16% to 31% of all Roma in Portugal live in precarious housing conditions”. These numbers are high in both absolute and relative terms, as the national average for people living in precarious conditions in Portugal is 0.8%.