EXPERIENCING ROMED – A legacy for improved participation of Roma communities

The implementation of the ROMED1 programme led to discussions at national level concerning the promotion of Roma mediation as a necessary process in programmes related to Roma inclusion, and also regarding the official recognition of the profession. This set in place an informal (at the time) rule, which has since been formally accepted, namely that any programme in favour of Roma shall include the Roma community with regard to consultation and implementation, as the community itself is more aware of its needs and how these could be met.

According to the National Support Team and a focus group of mediators, the negative context of the country due to the economic crisis affected on a large scale the situation of mediation in Greece and the Roma community. In certain cases, this general context led to phenomena of xenophobia and racism towards vulnerable social groups, and even violent acts against Roma mediators and Roma communities during the implementation of the programme. Indicative of the situation were the attitudes of rejection from non-Roma parents in areas of Anthili in Lamia and Sofades in Karditsa, when a decision was made by the local authorities to close down ghetto schools in marginalised areas and Roma children were transferred to other mixed schools in various districts. The role of mediation in this case was rendered very difficult by the overall economic and societal context.

Besides the deterioration of their living conditions, like in other ROMED countries, despite the important role they play at local level, mediators’ wages remain very low. Their positions are mostly temporary and consequently the mediators are not covered by health insurance. As such, they are obliged to take additional jobs that prevent them from fully dedicating themselves to mediation. Often, they fulfil the role of mediator on a voluntary basis.

According to the mediators’ evaluations after the ROMED1 trainings, many felt that their work status and conditions were not impacted by the training. The certificates issued by the Council of Europe were neither recognised by any stakeholder in Greece as a formal educational certification, nor was the profession of mediator, but they declared themselves more empowered by the process and recognise that the training on intercultural mediation was necessary for them.