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We condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and express our special concern for the situation of the Roma people [editar]

Statement of the Fundación Secretariado Gitano

14/03/2022
FSG

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 We condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and express our special concern for the situation of the Roma people

We join the international community in its condemnation of the human rights violations that this conflict is inflicting on the Ukrainian people. We recognise and value the solidarity and the work of the host countries and the entities working in the border areas. We are also particularly concerned about how this conflict may affect the Ukrainian Roma community -already affected by inequality and discrimination- in the processes of departure and reception.


Picture: Romea.cz. Romani refugees from Ukraine in the church at Pavlovce nad Uhom, Slovakia. (PHOTO: "Czechs Are Helping" / Če¨i pomáhají)

The Fundación Secretariado Gitano condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and is concerned about the current situation of the Roma people, whose previous situation was already marked by inequality, poverty and discrimination. We have expressed this concern, together with other European organisations, in a Joint Declaration "End the war against Ukraine!" #StandWithUkraine, and we are closely following the evolution of the situation.

Situation of the Roma people in Ukraine

The following brief information on the Roma people in Ukraine will be updated with the most relevant news following the Russian invasion of the country on the 24th of February.

The presence of a Roma minority on the territory of Ukraine has been documented since the 14th century. They adopted the language and religion of the dominant society. Nowadays, they are Orthodox in most parts of Ukraine, Catholics in the West and in the Zakarpathia region and Muslims in Crimea.

The estimated current population ranges from 47,000 (2001 census) to 400,000 (estimations of Roma organisations, Council of Europe, etc.).

The population is spread throughout the country, although the highest concentration can be found in the Zakarpathia region. Half of them live in cities and 35% consider Romani to be their mother tongue.

As documented by various international organisations, this current situation is exacerbated by the discrimination and antigypsyism that the population has historically suffered. The fifth report on Ukraine (2017) by ECRI - European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, for example, already indicated the need for urgent policies to address the situation of Roma communities in Ukraine in order to guarantee them the same rights as all citizens.

Reports by ECRI, and other international organisations and NGOs (United Nations, Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights, European Roma Rights Centre, etc.), also highlight a serious situation of exclusion and poverty, affecting employment, education, housing and health. In addition, serious cases of police brutality and frequent cases of discrimination and anti-gypsyism have been confirmed. Moreover, since the 1990s, numerous cases of hate crimes and discrimination against Ukrainian Roma have been reported.

Current situation regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine

The FSG has recently been able to gather information on how the situation of special vulnerability in which Roma people in Ukraine were already living, may be generating a particularly critical situation for them in the current invasion context, including the detection of some cases of disparate and discriminatory treatment that some Roma people in Ukraine are already receiving.

There is a large internal movement of Roma people in Ukraine, travelling from the east of the country to the west. The movements are not safe because of the shelling, but there is no other way out. There is a certain reluctance to leave the country mainly for two reasons: lack of financial means to survive outside their environment and lack of legal documentation for many Roma (they lack identification documents: ID cards, family books, etc.), which means that they are being detained at the borders. Many do not know how to read or write, and this makes it difficult for them to complete the necessary documentation to be able to apply for asylum in the host countries.

http://www.errc.org/news/ukrainian-roma-face-segregation-poor-conditions-and---without-documentation---nowhere-to-go   

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/7/ukraines-roma-refugees-recount-discrimination-on-route-to-safety  

Some cases of discriminatory treatment have been reported, ranging from the obstacles that they find when trying to cross the borders of neighbouring countries (Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Poland) to the treatment that they receive once they have managed to cross the borders.

http://www.romea.cz/en/news/czech/czech-bus-drivers-for-refugees-from-ukraine-refuse-to-rescue-romani-refugee-mothers-and-children-stuck-on-the-slovak-border 

There have also been some reported cases where the conditions under which some Roma from Ukraine are received in the EU states seem to be discriminatory.

In conclusion, it seems that the main additional difficulties encountered by Roma people in this war context are related to the following:

  1. Many Roma people stay in Ukraine due to the lack of means to survive outside their environment
  2. The lack of documentation of the Ukrainian Roma population may have a direct negative impact on equal rights in access to reception and refugee processes by other European countries
  3. The illiteracy levels of a large part of the Roma people could make it difficult to carry out the procedures required for reception and refuge processes.
  4. In view of some specific cases already reported, discrimination against the Roma people, as well as against other ethnic and racial minorities, by the care services at the border crossing points, would be preventing them from accessing these services on the same terms as the rest of the Ukrainian population.

 

Some initiatives emerging at a European level

Following a meeting held on the 8th of March, organised by Marius Tudor (assistant to the MEP Romeo Franz) and soma Roma organisations in Ukraine, we were informed of the main concerns: the need for food, drinking water, clothes and medicines.

http://www.romea.cz/en/news/world/roma-in-the-czech-republic-and-slovakia-join-aid-efforts-for-victims-of-russian-aggression-in-ukraine 

There are several initiatives and movements carried out by European NGOs -including the FSG- in the form of letters addressed to the European Institutions and other political figures, such as the Joint Statement "End the war against Ukraine" #StandWithUkraine. More initiatives will emerge during these days:

In response to this situation, ERGO has set up a financial contribution plan that is being managed on the ground with the Ukrainian organisation Roma Women Fund Chiricle:

https://chuffed.org/project/ukraine-help-roma-access-humanitarian-aid   


We are aware about other specific donation initiatives such as the following:

ERIAC: https://eriac.org/humanitarian-support-for-the-brave-people-of-ukraine/

ERRC: https://chuffed.org/project/human-rights-fund-for-roma

OPRE: https://baxtalo.wordpress.com/2022/03/16/solidaridad-con-los-rroma-ucranianos-o-p-r-e/  

The situation of the Roma people in Ukraine can be followed through this link, which is continuously updated by local activists, NGOs and international organisations:

https://padlet.com/ternype/support_roma_ukraine   

At the above-mentioned meeting on the 8th of March, Roma MEP Romeo Franz mentioned that a statement will soon be issued by several MEPs on this issue.


List and contact details of NGOs on the ground in Ukraine and neighbouring countries:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1m9kok3XrnF49_0T7SPLcNEvr38GmViLimjUW3hHqCCA/edit


UPDATE

Online meeting on needs of Roma Community during the War (Council of Europe, April 2022)
https://www.coe.int/en/web/roma-and-travellers/-/roma-from-ukraine-we-hear-you-


Article "How Russia's war has hit Ukraine's Roma people", by Sean Benstead, at the online magazine Jacobinmag.com  (April 2022)
https://jacobinmag.com/2022/04/russian-war-invasion-ukraine-roma-romani-violence/

 
References and positions on the situation of the Roma community in Ukraine on the occasion of 8 April, Roma Day 2022:

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