VIENNA, Austria – Gypsies remain among Europe's most discriminated-against people, the European Union's racism watchdog agency said Friday on the international remembrance day for Gypsies.
Gypsies, who prefer to be known as Roma, are routinely denied jobs, housing, education and health care, said the Vienna-based EU Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia.
The center's director, Beate Winkler, said Gypsies living in many of the EU's 25 member states suffer "systematic discrimination," and she called for a more intensive effort and greater political will to eliminate the bias and help lift Europe's Gypsy communities out of poverty.
An estimated 6.2 million Gypsies live in Europe — about 4.6 million of them in central and eastern Europe — according to estimates by the U.N.-affiliated International Organization for Migration.
In a report last year on their plight, the EU monitoring center said unemployment ran as high as 90 percent among Gypsies in some new EU member states such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, and that the worst discrimination happened when Gypsies tried to rent or buy property.
"Surveys show that they are the group 'least wanted' as neighbors by majority populations, and territorial segregation is particularly acute," the report said. It said Gypsies also tended to receive substandard medical care.
Gypsies are believed to have their roots in the northern Indian subcontinent. Tens of thousands have migrated to western Europe in the past decade in search of better living conditions.
A global conference of the Prague-based International Romani Union — a coalition of organizations working to ease the plight of Gypsies — designated April 8 as International Day of Roma in 1990.