European Court of Human Rights condemns Hungary for "school segregation"

The European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg. © FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

Text by: Florence La Bruyère Follow

2 min

The ECHR had been seized by a young Roma from Hungary, represented by the European Roma Rights Centre, a Brussels-based NGO (ERRC). The young man believes that he was deprived of a good quality education because of his Roma origins.


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From our correspondent in Budapest,

This is a victory for Imre Szolcsan. In 2013, this young Roma from Hungary attended Jókai Mór primary school in his village Piliscsaba, near Budapest. In this school, where young Roma were in the majority, the quality of education was poor and no one looked after Imre, who is hard of hearing.

The boy's mother then tried to enrol him in a better school, where he could have had an education adapted to his disability. But the school refused. In Hungary, school segregation and ethnic discrimination are officially illegal. And the law allows parents to freely choose where their children go to school. But in practice, an insidious segregation separates young Roma from other children.

In 2016, the European Commission estimated that 45% of Roma children in Hungary were in "separate" schools or classes and launched an infringement procedure against Hungary. This procedure is still ongoing and without tangible results.

A complaint that could set a precedent

The family filed a complaint with the Hungarian courts, but to no avail. With the help of an NGO, the young Imre then applied to the European Court of Human Rights. The Strasbourg-based Court has just condemned Hungary for school segregation. The State will have to pay the complainant compensation of 7,000 euros. Now 17 years old, the compensation awarded by the ECHR will allow Imre to finance his training as a welder in a vocational school.

This is not the first time Hungary has been condemned on this ground. But according to Imre's lawyers, this judgment sets a precedent, as the European Court goes beyond the individual case. It states that the school mentioned must stop all discrimination. And that the Hungarian state must follow the recommendations of NGOs, including those of the Centre for Roma Rights (ERRC), to end school segregation in the country.

► Read also: Roma: a tireless fight against violence and prejudice

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  • Hungary
  • International justice
  • Education
  • Teaching
  • Racism
  • Roma