Council of Europe identifies serious concerns affecting minorities in the UK
Advisory Committee publishes latest opinion on the UK
The Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities published its latest opinion on the UK on 25 May, which expresses serious concerns about the situation facing Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the UK and concerning effective access to education and racist bullying in particular affecting Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
The European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities is a comprehensive treaty protecting the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. The Advisory Committee monitors the legislative and other measures taken by states to comply with the principles of the convention, which includes issuing recommendations for state action where necessary.
Among the Advisory Committee’s findings, the fifth report on the UK states that the review of the Human Rights Act proposed by the government and the Nationality and Borders Act and Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act threatens to weaken the protection of human rights and minority rights, for instance, criminalising trespass, broadening police powers, and allowing for the removal of citizenship without prior notice.
In addition to this, the report states that access to healthcare for minorities in the UK is concerning, with ‘hostile environment’ policies having created distrust in the National Health Service (NHS). Employment of ethnic minorities who are said to be disproportionately on unstable contracts is also identified as an area of concern.
The report sets out a number of recommendations for immediate action and a series of further recommendations, which include: the adoption of priority measures to address the accommodation needs of persons belonging to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller minorities; the development and adoption of a comprehensive, cross-sectoral national strategy for England to combat anti-gypsyism and anti-nomadism; the adoption of measures to avoid any discriminatory effect of the Nationality and Borders Act and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act for persons belonging to national minorities; and that the country effectively guarantees for persons belonging to national minorities the right to equality before the law by adopting comprehensive equality legislation for Northern Ireland and by harmonising protection across the UK.