Different groups of people throughout Europe and beyond live on the edge of our societies. These individuals and groups are marginalised through social exclusion.

‘Social exclusion is the process in which individuals are blocked from (or denied full access to) various rights, opportunities and resources that are normally available to members of a different group, and which are fundamental to social integration and observance of human rights within that particular group (e.g., housing, employment, healthcare, civic engagement, democratic participation, and due process) [1].’

Depending on the cultural, historical, and political context of a given region, belonging to such groups – or even being perceived to belong to them – put its members at risk of inequality, discrimination, and exclusion. This affects their general access to rights and use of services, and particularly access to education, employment, healthcare, welfare and social systems, housing, as well as economic, cultural, and social participation. These marginalised groups also suffer a marked lack of protection against domestic and institutional violence, and recourse to justice.

When individuals within these groups become victims of crime, not only do they face obstacles accessing their rights, including the right to information, protection and support, but they are also at a greater risk of facing police violence and punitive measures when engaging with law enforcement agents [2], which prevents reporting the crimes.

These marginalised groups face inequalities, discrimination and exclusion based on characteristics, such as belonging to – or being perceived to belong to – a certain culture, ethnicity, religion or belief, their identified or perceived sexual orientation, disability, education, economic, legal or administrative status, or by living in various geographic localities.

The following are examples of groups that fall into this definition:

  • Undocumented migrants
  • Unaccompanied migrant children
  • Trafficked persons
  • Sex workers
  • Homeless
  • Roma and other travelling communities (Sinti, Irish Travellers, Gypsies, Occupational Travellers, etc.)

This is not an extensive list. Many different individuals and groups find themselves in social exclusion. For example, seasonal migrant workers (agriculture, construction, domestic workers, etc.), those without a permanent abode; including transitionally homeless or those living in shelters or short-term emergency accommodation, and other groups may also fall under the umbrella of marginalised groups.

[1] About“. Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice. Adler University.

[2] Pandemic: Roma at receiving end of racist policing, EU Observer, 04.05.2020, https://euobserver.com/coronavirus/148229; Police are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to abuse Roma, Al Jazeera, 14.05.2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/police-covid-19-pandemic-excuse-abuse-roma-200511134616420.html; Deplorable conditions in receptions centres and police violence: still a daily reality for many migrants, FRA, 18.02.2020, https://fra.europa.eu/en/news/2020/deplorable-conditions-receptions-centres-and-police-violence-still-daily-reality-many; Homelessness and police-recorded crime victimisation: a nationwide, register-based cohort study,
Feodor Nilsson, Nordentoft, Fazel, Munk Laursen, The Lancet Public Health, June 2020 ; Violences Policières Envers les Migrants et les Réfugiés en Transit en Belgique, Médecins du Monde, Octobre 2018, https://medecinsdumonde.be/system/files/publications/downloads/MdM%20rapport%20Geweldmigratie%20FR%20HD.pdf , Vulnerable To Hate: A Survey of Bias-Motivated Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness in 2016-2017, National Coalition for the Homeless, December 2018, https://nationalhomeless.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/hate-crimes-2016-17-final_for-web2.pdf

There is no uniform EU definition of marginalised communities; instead, the term covers a broad range of concepts, such as disadvantaged neighbourhoods, most deprived or materially deprived people, people at risk of poverty, and groups in society that are disadvantaged or discriminated against.

 Nonetheless, the concept of marginalised communities was introduced into the regulation on the ERDF in 2013, with the clear aim of fighting the consequences of marginalisation. So it is now the responsibility of the EU to follow up and pursue this aim in a consistent fashion.

Also, there is a wide variety of discriminatory structures in place, including sexual orientation and gender identity as well as different cultural, religious or ethnic backgrounds. Many people face different forms of discrimination at the same time, especially within Roma communities, which are very often marginalised within European societies.’

(Report on cohesion policy and marginalised communities (2014/2247(INI)) Committee on Regional Development: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/A-8-2015-0314_EN.html#title2)

Victims’ rights in the EU are established under The Victim’s Rights Directive. The directive sets out the 6 key rights available to all victims of all types of crime that take place in any Member State.

Article 2 of the Victims’ Rights Directive takes a holistic approach to defining who qualifies as a victim. The Directive does not exclude any victims of crime from accessing their rights and protective measures, on any grounds. In simple terms, everyone within the EU is protected under the Victims’ Rights Directive, no matter the victim’s administrative or legal status, economic, social or cultural status, nor their age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or any other characteristic.

Before we see how marginalised groups can access their rights under the Victims’ Rights Directive (section 4 below), it’s important to understand the challenges they face. Only when understanding their challenges can we understand their specific needs.

 

Specific challenges for marginalised victims of crime include:

  • Fear of police and other law enforcement agents, which prevents the victim from reporting a crime
    • Fear of police violence/experience with police brutality
    • Fear of – and real risk of – arrest, detention, and deportation upon contact with law enforcement
    • Fear of – and real risk of – repercussion of police contact on ongoing asylum or residence procedures
  • Unfamiliarity with victims’ rights laws
  • Unfamiliarity with available protection and support institutions
  • Lack of knowledge of national language
  • Lack of access to translators
  • Absence of support network in country where the crime happened
  • Lack of access to legal aid
  • Inadequate information for victims
  • Postponement of trials and long duration of criminal and civil proceedings
  • Return or deportation to country of origin before reaching a verdict
  • Denial of justice, protection and assistance
  • Necessity to provide proof of address upon reporting a crime
  • Necessity to provide valid I.D. card upon reporting a crime

 

Due to these challenges, marginalised victims needs, after a crime, are specific, and should be acknowledged by support workers, law enforcement agencies, and judiciary:

  • Need for specialised support when reporting a crime:
    • Information on victims’ rights provided and explained in a known language
    • Information on the country’s national law provided and explained in a known language
    • Information on reporting the crime provided and explained in a known language
    • Upon reporting the crime, the individual should have the option to be accompanied by a support work and translator
  • Need to access legal aid:
    • Free and provided in a language known to the victim
  • Heightened need of protection, support, and information
    • A marginalised victim is more likely to be homeless, or have unsatisfactory living conditions, placing them at a higher risk of secondary and repeat victimisation.
    • A marginalised victim has a heightened need for support as they may not have an immediate support network (family, friends, etc.)
    • A marginalised victim has a heightened need of information as they may not have access to usual streams of information, such as online information, or may struggle to understand information due to linguistic or literacy difficulties. Information traditionally provided to victims of crime may not reflect the realities of marginalisation.

Being a victim of crime will leave you feeling vulnerable and emotionally distressed. If you have been physically injured, you will have to cope with the additional concerns of your wounds and receiving treatment. In many countries, it is difficult for marginalised communities to access healthcare. It may also be hard to come to terms with what has happened, and you may have problems coping with the aftermath of the crime. The aftermath of a crime, coupled with an already difficult living situation, can leave you feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Turning to a Victim Support Service, or other specialised service, can help get you through this difficult time.

Being a victim of crime is an emotional experience. It is important to reach out for help: there are numerous organisations ready to support you when you are ready to ask for assistance. Victim Support offers free, confidential advice and help to all crime victims and its staff will work with you in the aftermath of your attack.

If you’ve been affected by crime, there are a number of ways you can contact support services to get assistance or information.

  1. Get support locally from your nearest Victim Support team
  2. Report the attack at your local police station
  3. Seek help from your local citizen’s advice centre

Aside from the Victim Support Organisations linked on VSE’s website, there are a number of specialised support services for marginalised groups across Europe.

If you require assistance in a country that is not listed, please contact us at info@victimsupporteurope.eu

N.B. Please not that Victim Support Europe cannot vouch for the quality of reception, support or care provided by the specialist organisations listed above. These organisations are largely unknown to VSE and are presented merely as a preliminary contact tool for victims and support staff.

Information contained within this page has been developed with the support of La Strada International and PICUM.

To learn more about trafficking in human beings and the needs and rights of trafficked persons, visit http://lastradainternational.org/

For an insight into European action for compensation for victims of crime for trafficked persons and victims of related crimes, visit La Strada’s Justice At Last campaign page: https://www.justiceatlast.eu/

To learn more about undocumented migrants, their rights and needs, visit https://picum.org/

PICUM and VSE advocate for the use of firewalls to protect undocumented migrants’ fundamental rights to access healthcare, justice and protect again labour exploitation. For more information about firewalls, visit https://picum.org/firewall-3/.

If you are undocumented and in need of help, visit PICUM’s website here: https://picum.org/undocumented-and-need-help/