Travelling communities need more space in Switzerland, says report

A Yenish site near Zurich. Keystone/ennio Leanza

The number of stopping sites for Yenish, Sinti and Roma communities in Switzerland is still insufficient, says a foundation for travelling peoples.

This content was published on May 20, 2021 minutes

The 47 areas in the country would need to be supplemented by 80 to 90 new sites in order to meet the needs of travelling minority groups, the foundation said on Thursday.

The report, published every five years, looks at the situation of sites in the country where Yenish and Sinti (ethnic Swiss communities) and Roma (who travel through Switzerland each year from surrounding countries) can stop and live for a time.

The report says 16 such sites are available in winter for the Yenish and Sinti and 24 during the “travelling period”, of which eight are only temporary.

For the Roma, who tend to travel in Switzerland between February and October, seven sites are available – not enough, says the foundation, resulting in potential tensions both among the Roma themselves and with local Swiss communities.

Political responsibilities

In Switzerland a law for the protection of minority groups means that national, regional, and local authorities are responsible for ensuring enough stopping sites are made available for these groups.

Simon Röthlisberger, the secretary-general of the foundation, said that “politicians need to assume their responsibilities”, even if some cantons have already announced plans for new sites.

Yenish and Sinti have been recognised as a national ethnic minority in Switzerland since 1999, when the country signed the Council of Europe’s Framework ConventionExternal link for the protection of minorities. 

An estimated 30,000 Yenish live in Switzerland, some 3,000 of whom maintain the travelling way of life. Only about 400 Sinti are left, though the group is also found in Germany, France, and Italy.

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