The Charter has been signed and ratified by most European nations, from Albania to the United Kingdom, and fourteen states, including Portugal, have accepted its collective complaint procedure. This mechanism allows certain trade unions and international NGOs to file against member states claims that are adjudicated by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), a group of fifteen independent experts. Where the Committee of Social Rights finds a violation of the Charter, the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers adopts a recommendation to the relevant State Party. While the Committee of Social Rights is far from attaining the stature of the European Court of Human Rights, it is increasingly being used as a venue for vindicating social and economic rights in Europe. Sixty-one complaints have been filed through the collective complaint procedure since its creation in 1998, with nearly half of those complaints filed since 2006.
The European Roma Rights Centre's current claim against Portugal is based on
problems of access to social housing, substandard quality of housing, lack of access to basic utilities, residential segregation of Romani communities and other systemic violations of the right to housing. . . compounded by a lack of practical access to effective legal remedies for redress.This is the seventh complaint filed before the Committee of Social Rights by the Centre, which has presented similar housing claims against Bulgaria, France, Greece, and Italy, creating an ECSR jurisprudence on which it can draw. Moreover, the ERRC "aims to establish beyond any doubt that the right to housing, particularly concerning vulnerable groups such as Roma, is firmly entrenched in international law" by drawing from existing treaty law, including the European Convention on Human Rights, and relevant soft law.
The ERRC's strategy and the ECSR itself present interesting models for the enforcement of social and economic rights of migrants, though it's hard to imagine the creation of a similar mechanism to which the United States would submit itself. In the wake of frightening state experiments with immigration law, though, it's worth considering how we might start taking the first steps towards creating an equally robust human rights regime right here in North America. A distant dream, but one worth pondering nonetheless.