MINELRES: ERRC Action to Challenge Exclusion of Roma from Health Care in Bulgaria

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Tue Oct 23 18:15:44 2007

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

Collective Complaint against Bulgaria under the Revised European Social
Charter Claims Violation of the State’s Obligation to Protect Health  

22 October, 2007

The European Roma Rights Centre today brought a collective complaint
under the Revised European Social Charter (RESC) against Bulgaria for
persistent and systematic violations of the right to protection of
health and to social and medical assistance with respect to Bulgarian
Roma as guaranteed under Articles 11 and 13 of the Charter and related
international standards. 

Under the RESC, the Bulgarian government is obliged to ensure the
protection of health by removing as far as possible the causes of
ill-health; by providing advisory and educational facilities for the
promotion of health; and by encouraging individual responsibility in
matters of health (Article 11 (1, 2, 3)). Furthermore, the government is
obliged to ensure the right to social and medical assistance by
guaranteeing that any person who is without adequate resources and who
is unable to secure such resources either by his own efforts or from
other sources, in particular benefits under a social security scheme, be
granted adequate assistance, and, in case of sickness, the care he needs
(Article 13 (1)).

The ERRC collective complaint alleges that these commitments are not
upheld with respect to Roma in Bulgaria, because the Bulgarian
government has failed to eliminate the disparate impact of health
insurance legislation on Roma and other vulnerable groups in society and
tolerates policies and practices which undermine the protection of
health of members of the Romani communities in Bulgaria. In particular:

Bulgarian legislation does not guarantee health insurance coverage for
the most vulnerable individuals, especially long-term unemployed people,
a disproportionate number of whom are Romani; 
The government has not undertaken effective measures to address the
disparities in health between Roma and non-Roma as well as mitigate the
adverse effect of socio-economic determinants such as poverty, poor
housing and sanitary conditions, and low educational levels on the
health of Roma and their access to health care; 
Systematic discriminatory practices such as segregation of Romani women
in maternity wards, denial of emergency aid services to Roma, and denial
of other types of medical care are not addressed by the government. 
The ERRC alleges that, taken together with their large scale character,
these issues give rise to systemic violations of the rights ensured in
Articles 11 and 13, read together and/or independently of the Revised
Charter's Article E non-discrimination guarantees.

The present collective complaint reveals high levels of exclusion of
Roma from health care, gross disparities in health between Roma and
non-Roma, and higher vulnerability of Roma to tuberculosis and other
infectious diseases. These conditions prevail in many Romani communities
throughout Europe. Taking note of the World Health Organisation European
Ministerial Forum “All Against Tuberculosis” which is held today in
Berlin, the ERRC urges European Health Ministers to:

- ensure that TB screening and treatment programmes reach the most
excluded segments of the Romani communities; 
- ensure that accurate and consistent data about TB incidence and
adherence to treatment in Romani communities is available; 
- provide adequate support for the active engagement of Roma grassroots
organizations in the design and implementation of TB prevention and
treatment programmes; 
- amend legislation to eliminate adverse impact on the access of
socially vulnerable individuals to health care services; 
- design comprehensive public health programmes to eliminate the
disparities in health between Roma and non-Roma. Such programmes should
be developed across all sectors and address the impact of housing,
education, social services and other factors on health and access to
health care; 
- establish special mechanisms for monitoring and assessment of health
care services to deal specifically with discrimination in the health
care system. 

The full text of the Collective Complaint is available at:

For further information on the ERRC collective complaint, please contact
ERRC Research and Policy Coordinator Savelina Danova/Russinova:

For further information regarding access of Roma to health care in
European countries, see ERRC report “Ambulance Not on the Way: The
Disgrace of Health Care for Roma in Europe”, available at:


The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and
provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more
information about the European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the
web at http://www.errc.org 

To support the ERRC, please visit this link:

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Tel: +36.1.413.2200

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