ARDI Statement for the International Roma Day
Governments need to act now to protect Roma and other racialised communities from racism and xenophobia and from Covid-19
8 April, 2020
It is truly sad that instead of celebrating April 8, International Roma Day, we must keep living in fear, urging governments to protect Roma from both Covid-19 and antigypsyism.
In the time of corona, increase of racism and xenophobia and the fact that Roma and other racialised communities now suffer disproportionately cannot be overshadowed nor ignored while the political narratives and actions focus on other important issues such as support to the Member States’ endangered health systems in particular.
People of Romani, Asian, African and Middle East descent, undocumented people and asylum seekers especially experience scapegoating and hate speech including by politicians. There are also reports of enforcement of racist policies, increase of racist attacks, racial profiling and police brutality, even more difficult access to education, increased financial insecurity, loss of income, closure or reduction of support services’ and homelessness. Racialised communities are the most marginalized and they are often not part of formal markets and cannot benefit from the state support in case of job loss due to corona crisis. We also learned that few days ago Belgian police (again) confiscated four caravans of Roma Traveller families. Asked about alternative housing, the police answered: “You, the gypsies, can arrange it among yourselves”. Now it is especially worrying that Roma in Europe still lack access to clean water while one of the most important advice of professionals about how to protect yourself from the virus is: ‘wash your hands’.
This list is, unfortunately, not exhaustive.
We must not forget that these problems are not only affecting EU Member States. You can read more about Europe’s neglected corona victims – Roma people in Central and Southeast Europe, here.
We are glad to see that different important actors across Europe are calling for urgent action, but the most important actors – the Member States – are mostly silent. Equally dangerous, some individuals, groups, far-right parties are using the crisis to further stigmatize already stigmatized communities and to fuel hatred.
- Member States now must break the silence and protect fundamental rights of people suffering increase of racism and xenophobia during the Covid-19 crisis.
- They must also increase the level of solidarity towards and protection of the most marginalised and those experiencing racism and xenophobia.
- There is no more time for statements, but a need to quickly identify concrete challenges facing those groups in the context of Covid-19 crisis and implement urgent measures that would respond to these challenges, especially measures to have an immediate positive effect on access to health services, clean water and sanitary conditions.
- Emergency and other funds need to be closely real-time monitored for their availability to improve conditions of marginalised groups and strengthen the support for civil society – human rights workers, service providers and others who help communities on the ground.
- It is most urgent to ensure basic needs and services now. Access to healthcare and hygiene for all is crucial in this situation.
We welcome steps that the European Commission have taken: messages of solidarity towards women in all their diversity, towards people of East-Asian, Romani, African and Middle East descent, messages of respect for fundamental rights of undocumented people, asylum seekers and others, as well as financial support and calls to the Member States for concrete actions.
Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned that the EU support will not reach the most marginalised groups, especially taking into consideration structural or institutional racism, therefore the Commission is also recommended to:
- explicitly integrate the support towards all communities under higher risk into the Covid-19 responses and keep communicate about the importance of safeguarding their needs;
- ensure that EU funds mobilised to mitigate the crisis are used to identify and address the needs of the most marginalised members of society;
It is of utmost importance now for the Member States to show solidarity, respect for all and to act and protect fundamental rights of people suffering disproportionately.
Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI)