International Romani Day (April 8)
Roma in Eastern Europe especially affected by the Corona pandemic (Press Release)
On the occasion of the International Romani Day (April 8) and the 50th anniversary of the first World Romani Congress (1972), the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) points out that the Roma minority in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans is especially affected by the Corona pandemic. "Before Corona, the Roma were able to keep their heads above water with wage labor or by trading in waste paper and scrap metal – but this is hardly possible today. Many Roma have slipped into the deepest misery and have to beg or search for recyclable material in garbage," stated Jasna Causevic, STP expert on Southeastern Europe, in Göttingen on Wednesday.
The human rights activist warned that there is "…a great danger that all the little improvements to the situation of the Roma in Eastern and Southeastern Europe – mainly due to a strengthened self-confidence of the Roma and especially the commitment of the Roma Women's Network – might be wiped out by the pandemic." She sees the danger of a "lost generation", as even Roma children who used to be able to go to school can no longer participate in digital education because they don’t have access to computers and to the Internet, and because it is not possible for them to obtain help with printed learning materials.
While Roma living in Western Europe now enjoy greater acceptance, they are still victims of ongoing apartheid policies in the countries of Southeastern Europe – such as Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Northern Macedonia. Roma people are systematically disadvantaged and excluded in the fields of medical care, education, employment, and housing, Causevic stated. Further, she criticized that the EU strategies and all national efforts and laws have hardly led to equality and participation of Roma in the precarious overall situation in Eastern Europe. Also, 90 percent of them are unemployed, and tens of thousands live in slums, with hardly any access to medical care. The children are discriminated against in school, and the number of illiterates among the Roma remains enormously high. Roma women are often forcibly married and are not allowed to educate themselves.
"The Roma minorities in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans need immediate, unbureaucratic support from the EU," Causevic demanded. In some states, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, Roma are also discriminated against under constitutional law. They are not even recognized as a minority and, according to current law, cannot run for presidency or for parliament.
With ten to twelve million members, the Roma represent the largest ethnic minority in Europe. About six million of them live in the EU. There, too, they are victims of prejudice and social exclusion, despite the ban on discrimination.