Prohibition of Discrimination

IV. Discrimination on the Ground of Nationality and Ethnic Origin

Complaints based on race, nationality, language, origin and ethnicity accounted for 5% of all of the complaints dealt with by the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office in 2013.[1] The number of complaints to the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office based on race, nationality, language, origin and ethnicity had been on the decline since 2010, but in 2014 it increased slightly.[2] The majority of complaints concerned discrimination in education.[3]

The negative attitude of the Lithuanian public towards individuals of different nationalities, origin or ethnicity was clearly illustrated by the results of a public opinion survey conducted in 2013. Lithuanians identified Ukrainians (5%), Russians (5%), Belarusians (6%), Poles (8%), Moldavians (9%), Georgians (11%), Turks (12%), Kazakhs (14%), Jews (15%) and the Chinese (18%)[4] as groups they would not want to see as their neighbours. The Pakistani (23%), Chechen (36%) and Roma (Gypsies) (66%) ethnic groups were viewed considerably less favourably.[5] 18% of the respondents would not have wanted to have black neighbours.[6]

 Sociological studies show that it is the Roma that most often face discrimination based on their ethnicity.[7] A public attitude survey shows that Roma are still the least liked ethnic group: 48% of respondents would not want to work in one work place with Roma (Gypsies) (43.1% of respondents in 2012 and 42% in 2011).[8] 60.7% of respondents claimed that their opinion of the Roma (Gypsies) worsened over the last five years (63.6% claimed this in 2012).[9]

In 2014, the EOOO on its own initiative launched an investigation into a case of possible discrimination on the ground of ethnicity in the pre-schools of Kaunas and Jurbarkas. While preparing for Užgavėnės (a festival taking place during the seventh week before Easter), children were taught to sing the following song – as well as other similar ones – in music class:

 "The gipsy is beat vigorously,
When he slaughters a lamb,
Oh they beat him and [again] beat when he slaughters a lamb.
The gipsy will be pounded, pounded,
After tying him to the fence,
Oh they'll pound him and [again] they'll pound him, after tying him to the fence.
For stealing chickens,
For strangling piglets,
Oh lylia, oh lylia, for stealing chickens,
Oh lylia, oh lylia, for strangling piglets."

The Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office noted that "considering the stereotypical attitudes clearly expressed by our society towards certain national minorities, one should not increase tension between separate national groups and form children's preconceptions towards them", recommending that the criteria for pre-school upbringing programmes be revised.[10]

The amendments to the Law on Identity Cards and Passports, adopted in 2014, which allow the nationality of a citizen to be entered into all passports issued after 1 January 2015 upon request, must be seen as a negative development.[11] While entries of nationality in passports will not be compulsory and will only be done at the request of the citizen him or herself, this provision allows for the differentiation of people according to their nationality and is bad practice with regard to the fight against discrimination or incitement of ethnic strike in the country.

On 25 November 2014, the Department of Ethnic Minorities under the Government was established by a Government resolution; it is slated to begin operation on 1 July 2015.[12] The Government took on board the criticisms expressed by Lithuanian non-governmental organizations and international institutions, which had repeatedly emphasized that the division of responsibility between the Ministries of Culture and Education for shaping policies with regard to ethnic minorities led to both Ministries no longer considering ethnic minority policies to be a priority issue.

While entries of nationality in passports will not be compulsory and will only be done at the request of the citizen him or herself, this provision allows for the differentiation of people according to their nationality and is bad practice with regard to the fight against discrimination or incitement of ethnic strike in the country.

The lack of attention to the protection of minority rights had negative consequences for ensuring these rights, in particular in education and employment. In addition, it is clear that only cherishing the cultural rights of ethnic minorities does not properly discharge the state's duty under the provisions of the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities.[13] It should be noted that since 2010 Lithuania had been lacking a Law on the Protection of National Minorities, and because of this loophole the country has basically not determined how the general provisions of the Convention, including the writing of names, last names and street names in the languages of minorities, should be realized.[14]

The Action Plan for the Integration of Roma into Lithuanian Society for 2015-2020, prepared by the Ministry of Culture, seeks to reduce discrimination against and social exclusion of the Roma, promote the Roma participation in public life, increase the consciousness of the Roma community and also public tolerance.[15] It is commendable that Roma and non-governmental human rights organizations were consulted during the preparation of the action plan, providing for important measures in the field of education, employment, health and cultural rights. However, the limited power of the document in obliging other ministries and municipalities to implement the measures envisaged does deserve criticism: the action plan approved by the order of the Minister of Culture only recommends that municipalities implement the envisaged measures, and that all the implementing bodies voluntarily contribute to the funding of these measures.

In Vilnius, the problem of Roma housing is being dealt with sluggishly, thus further promoting the ethnic segregation of the Roma community. While international institutions – the European Commission, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as well as the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance – had previously submitted recommendations to Lithuania on solving the housing problem, no one has initiated the process to resolve it.

The problem demands a complex solution: the strategy documents for Roma integration should be approved by Government resolutions (rather than separate orders of ministers), setting out priority objectives to ensure inter-institutional collaboration as required. Only in these circumstances would be it possible to see steps in the right direction to solve Roma housing problems.[16]

The demolition of buildings built in 1970-1980 continues in the Kirtimai micro-district, with no system measures being taken to ensure the availability of housing.[17] On 9 April 2014, the Vilnius City District Court ordered a Roma family to demolish the buildings they inhabited, despite the fact that two minor children and an ailing man lived in the house and the family had been waiting for social housing for 10 years.[18] According to the Roma Community Centre, there were at least six court hearings in 2013-2014 concerning the demolition of buildings inhabited by Roma.[19] The demolition of residential buildings in Kirtimai usually takes place when the people are temporarily absent from them.[20]

The Construction Supervision Department of the Ministry of the Environment designates buildings populated by Roma in Kirtimai as illegal and takes legal action for their demolition, but no alternatives with regard to housing are being offered.[21] Such actions by public authorities are worrying, as only the aspects of the lawful demolition are being stressed, but not the state's duty to take steps to ensure that the evicted people – especially families with children – are provided with housing, integrating them into the labour market and ensuring that their children are given a real opportunity to attend school. [22]

In the beginning of 2015, media reported that the Vilnius City Municipality, together with the Parliament's Commission for Prevention of Drug and Alcohol Addiction and the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, have started drafting a project aimed at relocating Roma to the newly built village.[23] Such initiatives, when the Roma community is relocated from one "ghetto" to another, do not contribute to the social integration of the community, do not deal with problems relating to their social exclusion, discrimination and poverty; on the contrary – they further contribute to their stigmatization and exclusion from society. There is a lack of understanding that separating groups of people, relocating them further away from society, is a typical measure for isolation, guaranteeing that exclusion is further exacerbated.

Lithuania is still missing a systemic state policy to prevent the early withdrawal of Roma children from education, by providing the support necessary for the education process to schools and ensuring the continuous cooperation with the parents of Roma children in this process. The Law on Education provides that Lithuanian residents have both the right and duty to learn, and requires the state to take measures to ensure equal opportunities for every child to study in accordance with primary, basic and secondary education programmes.[24] It also guarantees access to education for students with special educational needs;[25] students with learning difficulties are considered to have special educational needs. However, research shows that organization of education in Lithuania does not take into account the unequal ability of children to learn: when providing common services to all children, the specific needs of different groups are not considered. [26]

The education indicators for Lithuanian Roma still markedly differ from the national average; while the general education indicators for Lithuanian residents are growing, the education of Lithuanian Roma only shows growth at the lowest levels – in primary and basic education.

The education indicators for Lithuanian Roma still markedly differ from the national average; while the general education indicators for Lithuanian residents are growing, the education of Lithuanian Roma only shows growth at the lowest levels – in primary and basic education. The problems relating to the organization of education, such as the inability to identify the social and educational needs of the Roma children and to provide targeted timely services – leads to a fairly large portion of Roma children withdrawing from education early; this way, the state perpetuates the vicious circle, whereby generation after generation has no means or ability to take care of itself and integrate into society. It follows that the education system does not guarantee social justice and equal opportunities in education.[27] The Ministry of Education and Science has also shown a reluctance to cooperate with non-governmental organizations that deal with issues pertaining to the Roma ethnic group.[28]

Findings and Recommendations

  • The amendments to the Law on Identity Cards and Passports providing for the possibility to enter a person's nationality to his/her passport, adopted in 2014, are seen as negative. This regulation allows to discriminate individuals.
  • The Government resolution establishing the Department of Ethnic Minorities is commendable. In order to further reinforce the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities in the country, it is necessary to adopt legislation implementing the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities.
  • The Action Plan for the Integration of Roma into Lithuanian Society for 2015-2020 is being prepared by the Ministry of Culture. However, the power of the document to compel other ministries and municipalities to implement the envisaged measures is limited, and as such the Roma integration programme and action plan should be approved by the Government, requiring all responsible authorities to carry out the measures envisaged in the program and to allocate funds for their implementation.
  • Issues relating to the availability of housing, especially in the Vilnius municipality, are being dealt with sluggishly. The demolition of Roma-populated buildings in Kirtimai without resolving the housing problems of their residents and in the absence of systemic solutions, only intimidates people, treads upon their dignity, violates the rights of children and adults.
  • Lithuania is still missing systemic state policies that would prevent the early withdrawal of Roma children from education, by providing the support needed for education to schools and ensuring constant cooperation with Roma parents. The cooperation between the authorities and municipalities is vital to address the issues of Roma housing, education and other social services.

[1] Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, Activity Report 2013, pub. 2014, p 57 psl., http://www.lygybe.lt/download/303/lygi%C5%B3%20galimybi%C5%B3%20kontrolieriaus%20tarnybos%20veiklos%202013%20m.%20ataskaita.pdf

[2] Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, Activity Report 2014, pub. 201, p. 64, http://www.lygybe.lt/download/482/lygi%C5%B3%20galimybi%C5%B3%20kontrolieriaus%20tarnybos%202014%20m.%20ataskaita.pdf

[3] Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, Activity Report 2014, pub. 201, p. 69, http://www.lygybe.lt/download/482/lygi%C5%B3%20galimybi%C5%B3%20kontrolieriaus%20tarnybos%202014%20m.%20ataskaita.pdf

[4] Institute for Ethnic Studies, "Study of Societal Attitudes“, 2013, p. 2, http://www.ces.lt/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Visuomen%C4%97s-nuostatos-2013.pdf

[5] Institute for Ethnic Studies, "Study of Societal Attitudes“, 2013, 2013 m., p. 3, http://www.ces.lt/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Visuomen%C4%97s-nuostatos-2013.pdf

[6] Institute for Ethnic Studies, "Study of Societal Attitudes“, 2013, p. 2, http://www.ces.lt/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Visuomen%C4%97s-nuostatos-2013.pdf

[7] Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, Activity Report 2014, pub. 2015, p. 66, http://www.lygybe.lt/download/482/lygi%C5%B3%20galimybi%C5%B3%20kontrolieriaus%20tarnybos%202014%20m.%20ataskaita.pdf

[8] Institute for Ethnic Studies, “Ethnic and Social Groups in Lithuania: Societal Attitudes and their Changes" 2011, p. 146, http://www.ces.lt/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/EtSt_Pilinikaite-Sotirovic_Zibas_2011.pdf

[9] Institute for Ethnic Studies, "Study of Societal Attitudes“, 2013, http://www.ces.lt/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Visuomen%C4%97s-nuostatos-2013.pdf

[10] Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office, Activity Report 2014, pub. 2015, p. 67-68, http://www.lygybe.lt/download/482/lygi%C5%B3%20galimybi%C5%B3%20kontrolieriaus%20tarnybos%202014%20m.%20ataskaita.pdf

[11] Law on Personal Identity Cards and Passports, 23 December 2014, No. XII-1519, Article 5(6), http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=493262&p_tr2=2

[12] Resolution No. 1300 of the Government "On the Establishment of the Department of Ethnic Minorities, a Budgetary Institution, under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania", dated 24 November 2014, https://www.e-tar.lt/portal/lt/legalAct/0909fc30756a11e4805fa6cb12e2ef99

[13] Prime Minister, "On the Draft Resolution of the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania "On the Establishment of the Department of Ethnic Minorities, a Budgetary Institution, under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania"', 24 November 2014, No. 71-4193, http://www.lrv.lt/Posed_medz/2014/141124/01.pdf

[14] Ieva Rudytė, "The problem with writing personal names. Discussion with Evelina Baliko, an advocate's assisstant", manoteises.lt, 5 May 2014, http://manoteises.lt/straipsnis/asmenvardziu-rasymo-problema-pokalbis-su-advokato-padejeja-evelina-baliko/

[15] Order No. ĮV-48 of the Minister of Culture "On the Approval of the Action Plan for the Integration of Roma into Lithuanian Society for 2015-2020", dated 29 January 2015, part 1, https://www.e-tar.lt/portal/lt/legalAct/4a774b20a7c711e4a82d9548fb36f682

[16] Dovilė Gailiūtė, “The Right to Housing of Ethnic Minorities", 2013, p. 351-401.

[17] Dovilė Gailiūtė, “The Right to Housing of Ethnic Minorities", 2013, p. 351-401.

[18] 9 April 2014 Ruling of the Vilnius City District Court in civil proceedings No.2-302-465/2014

[19] Roma Community Centre, information provided over the phone on 22 January 2015,

[20] UPR Info, “Lithuania: Mid-Term Implementation Assessment", 2014, p. 9, http://www.upr-info.org/followup/assessments/session26/lithuania/MIA-Lithuania.pdf

[21] UPR Info, “Lithuania: Mid-Term Implementation Assessment", 2014, p. 9, http://www.upr-info.org/followup/assessments/session26/lithuania/MIA-Lithuania.pdf

[22] Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights, "Demolition of buildings does not solve social problems", 18 March 2014, http://manoteises.lt/straipsnis/namu-griovimas-nesprendzia-socialiniu-problemu/

[23] Violeta Grigaliūnaitė, "Instead of their camp and drugs in Kirtimai, Vilnius gypsies will be offered a new village with horses", 15min.lt, 30 March 2015, http://www.15min.lt/naujiena/aktualu/lietuva/vilniaus-romams-vietoj-taboro-ir-narkotiku-kirtimuose-ketinama-siulyti-nauja-kaima-ir-arklius-56-493567

[24] Law on Education, 25 June 1991, No. I-1489, Chapter Three "Accessibility and Quality of Education", http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=458774

[25] Law on Education, 25 June 1991, No. I-1489, Chapter Three "Accessibility and Quality of Education, http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=458774

[26] Vita Petrušauskaitė, "Early withdrawal of Roma children from education in Vilnius: analysis of the field of education", 2014

[27] Vita Petrušauskaitė, "Early withdrawal of Roma children from education in Vilnius: analysis of the field of education", 2014

[28] UPR Info, “Lithuania: Mid-Term Implementation Assessment", 2014, p. 14, http://www.upr-info.org/followup/assessments/session26/lithuania/MIA-Lithuania.pdf