Social Inclusion Policies for the Roma People. The Case of the Sofades Municipal District (Thessaly, Greece)

Doyia Maria

Roma people are the largest ethnic minority in Europe, amounting to a population of ten to twelve million, out of which, six million reside in the EU. The concept of the social and economic inclusion of the Roma is of particular concern, since the discrimination and the marginalization which they face, in their majority, contradicts the aims and values underlying the EU. In particular, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), many Roma in the EU face similar living conditions compared to those of the populations of the world’s poorest countries. Τhe existence of multiple inequalities function as a vicious circle, making it extremely difficult to include them into the social frame.

The aim of my thesis is to analyze the institutional framework regarding the social inclusion of Roma people, as well as the basic guidelines governing these policies in the wider social context. Furthermore, it investigates how such policies are implemented locally, as well as the ideology inherent in these policies, and whether the Roma community itself is involved in the decision-making process. For this reason, the Municipality of Sofades was chosen as a case study, seeing that the region contains the largest Roma settlement in proportion to the local population of 2.500 residents, making it interesting in terms of locality and integration. Even though they have been located in the area since 1930, they have only been included in the Registries in 1980. They are however, still ghettoizedand remain marginalized as they accept stereotypical perceptions.

The main point of research of this paper, focuses on whether inclusion policies are part of a multi-action strategy aimed at the social inclusion of Roma or reduce the level of management by enhancing their ghettoization. In this context, the concept of social inclusion is defined -based on Europe’s 2020 strategy- as work accessibility, basic health services, education and housing services and, to combat poverty and social exclusion. Local social policy implementation involves factors that affect both the attitudes and perceptions of the local authorities involved in its implementation such as particular conditions, dynamics, hierarchies based on power and dependence that generally shape the conditions of the coexistence of the Roma community within the wider local community.

The method used for data collection consists of a sufficient number of semi-structured interviews with bodies involved with social policy programs for Roma inclusion at a local level. The interview guide line will consist of different thematic sections including open-ended questions. Official state documents such as legislative decrees for Roma social inclusion and programs regarding health, education, work, and housing serve as a source of information on the relevant European policies pursued by the Greek State and the local government. Excerpts from the interviews and the institutional context are analyzed using discourse analysis techniques in combination with thematic content analysis. The critical method of discourse analysis is particularly appropriate to reveal the ideological consequences of the policies under consideration. The theoretical background is informed by theories that stress the role of the local government in the field of social policy and social protection. Furthermore, the concept of inclusion figures prominently in the interpretation of practices followed by stakeholders working with Roma.

Academic Year
2018 - 2019