The attitude towards Turkish Roma during the Pandemic
News from ERGO member Zero Discrimination
Attitudes towards Roma during the Covid Pandemic in Turkey were heterogenous. While inclusiveness was much improved, especially on the part of the interventions of the local authorities, discriminatory discourses were also witnessed.
To count a few positive interventions: in İstanbul, the Metropolitan Municipality prioritized Roma neighbourhoods in food aid; in Ankara, the Metropolitan Municipality employed paper and scrap collectors; in İzmir, Municipalities in cooperation with local authorities, Red Crescent and a Roma NGO provided food parcels and hygiene kits as well as cash assistance; in Edirne, Municipality embraced “crisis municipalism approach” and provided regular food parcels to Roma neighbourhoods and regularly disinfected the streets; in Manisa, the Municipality provided food assistance to quarantined Roma neighbourhood; in Tekirdağ, the Municipality employed Roma musicians and in Canik/Samsun food parcels were also distributed in Roma neighbourhoods.
Moreover, Zero Discrimination Association in cooperation with local authorities and municipalities, through the Roma Solidarity Network provided food, hygiene kits and clothing to scores of Roma families in different parts of Turkey, including Balıkesir, Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep.
Apart from these positive examples, some municipalities do not take measures specially designed for the Roma. While many provide social aid to disadvantaged groups, as many Roma are illiterate and many lack access to internet, they cannot even apply for this assistance. While Zero Discrimination Association tries to facilitate their access, there is a need for sustainable and permanent mechanisms. On the other hand of the spectrum, unfortunately, some municipalities employed discriminatory practices. One of the municipalities refrained from disinfecting a Roma neighbourhood, on their ill-founded assumption that “Roma are already infected and that there is no need to disinfect”. In another district, the needs of the Roma were disregarded on the misfortunate belief that “Roma are already used to hunger and thirst”. In some cities, Roma’s need for social assistance were stigmatized on the again unfounded prejudice of Roma’s laziness and lack of will for hard work.
Image: “Mücadele olmadan yaşam olmaz” means “There is no life without struggle”. Written on the wall of a Roma Neighbourhood.
Social Media Accounts – Roma Solidarity Network
Social Media Accounts – Zero Discrimination Association
On 25 May 2020 George Floyd, an African American man, was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mass protests in response to his death quickly spread across the United States and internationally in a joint mobilisation against police violence and structural racism. Across the world, people have started to take down statues of colonisers and racist figures. A global Black Lives Matter movement is surging alongside wider anti-racist movements in an attempt to restore centuries of injustice, killings and oppression of people of African descent, but also institutional and structural racism and discrimination of all ethnic and racialised minorities.
As ERGO Network we stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and we say it loud and clear: In Europe, Black and Brown Lives matter! We hope that everyone now protesting on the streets takes this into account in their political demands as well as in their own everyday lives.
Structural racism and discrimination against ethnic and racialised minorities are deeply rooted in European societies. Across the EU, people of African descent, Roma, Muslims, Jews and immigrants face widespread and entrenched prejudice and exclusion. Racial discrimination and harassment are common place.
Roma in Europe are more likely to live in poverty than the majority population, have a higher risk of unemployment and have poorer health – as tragically seen during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are exposed to racism by their co-citizens (with, in some countries, one third to half the population not wanting to work with Roma colleagues according to a Fundamental Rights Agency survey), and more often victims police brutality. Just in the last couple of months, 14 year old Gabriel Djordjevic was severely beaten by police in Paris, 5 Romani children between 7 and 11 were beaten by police in Slovakia, approximately 20 Romani men and women were beaten by police in Romania and a young man during a police control in the Netherlands.
The pandemic exposed the racial bias of the police even more: Between March and May 2020, Amnesty International documented cases of militarized quarantines of ten Roma settlements in Bulgaria and Slovakia. This disproportionate restriction on freedom of movement that selectively targets ethnic minority groups, without evidence that they represent an objective threat to public health or security, imposes an unnecessary and disproportionate burden on this group and amounts to discrimination.
It is regrettable that 70 years after the adoption of the European Convention of Human Rights and subsequent international and EU standards on equality and anti-discrimination, minorities continue to be racialised, harassed, attacked and killed in Europe because of their innate characteristics. It is scandalous that the EU and national legislative frameworks and state institutions fail to protect them and to educate themselves and the majority populations about historical facts, diversity, compassion and living together as equal human beings.
Looking at the construction, priorities and progress of the European Union, it is safe to claim that European leaders have prioritised economic growth over the protection of the most vulnerable groups in our societies and over ensuring equity of wealth and wellbeing across the world. The strong awakening, protesting and mobilisation of the majority population in times of a global pandemic to the persistent racism and dehumanization and consequences of colonialism, slavery and historic oppression such as the Holocaust is an unprecedented moment in the history of humanity. It speaks to the urgency with which world and European leaders need to take corresponding unprecedented steps to bring about fundamental changes in our society. Only with systemic change can we set up a social contract that ensures justice and equality for all, prioritizing those most marginalised and oppressed to date.
Since the start of the protests, many political figures in Europe have spoken out in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. While we appreciate condemnation of police violence in the US, the EU leadership has not said or done enough to acknowledge and address structural racism and racist police violence in the EU against ethnic and religious minorities. As quoted in the Financial Times on 3 June 2020, European Commission Vice-President Schinas went as far as saying “I do not think that we have issues now in Europe that blatantly pertain to police brutality or issues of race transcending into our systems.” This is a slap in the face of all victims of police violence in Europe, including many Roma. Member of the European Parliament Pierrette Herzberger Fofana set the record straight when she had the courage to publicly talk about her personal experience with racist police violence at the Gare du Nord in Brussels just a few days after Schinas’ comment.
In a rushed action, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on anti-racism protests (2020/2685(RSP)) on 19 June. It shows that public pressure can work and that the Parliament sees an urgency to react, but failed to appropriately address structural racism in Europe. The title of the resolution is related to the US protests following the death of George Floyd, without a clear intention and focus on structural racism against all racialized minorities in Europe, triggered by events in the US. An immediate reaction and a resolution by the European Parliament requesting an unprecedented response by the European Commission and EU Council like in the case of Covid-19 is still necessary; therefore such a resolution should have focused primarily on EU Members States, Enlargement and Neighborhood Countries and involved Roma and other anti-racist civil society and racialized minorities in drafting it. Structural and institutional racism cannot be tackled without listening to those suffering under it. When it comes to its ambitions, the resolution is asking for an European Anti-Racism Summit, a comprehensive strategy against racism and discrimination and an EU Framework for National Action Plans Against Racism, the creation of a EU Council mechanism for equality and an interinstitutional task force to fight racism and discrimination at EU level.
Following the adoption of the resolution, the all-white European Commission held an internal debate on racism and decided that an “Action Plan to address racial discrimination and Afrophobia” would be prepared by Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli. While we believe this is a too low of a bargain for racialized minorities,we truly hope that this Action Plan on paper will really be followed up by REAL Action – not just by the EU institutions but also by its Member States and adhering countries, and that it will be prepared in close consultation and at equal level with ALL racialized minorities, including Roma, and CSOs.
Here are some of our recommendations to the EU institutions and member States.
Finally adopt the 10-year old draft of the Horizontal Anti-discrimination Directive
Systematically record and publish disaggregated data on hate crime
Fully transpose and apply the provisions of the Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia, treating racist and xenophobic motivation as an aggravating circumstance
Address ongoing ill-treatment, profiling and over-policing of minorities by police officers.
Reform internal policies and working methods in order to ensure a fair representation of minority populations within EU institutions as well as an adequate participation and consultation of minority groups in EU decisions in policies, programmes and funding
Commit to an ambitious, comprehensive, and binding EU Strategic Framework for Roma to achieve equality, social and economic justice, and combat antigypsyism.
Ensure equitable access to quality inclusive education for all children and invest consistently in raising awareness and adequately teach European societies about their colonial and racist past, including the history of antigypsyism.
Define segregation as illegal in housing and in education.
Address discrimination of minority groups in employment.
Take into account the needs of racialised minorities and define them as a priority in all mainstream policies and measures of the Covid-19 recovery plan; meaningfully involve Roma stakeholders and their civil society organisations in the design, implementation, and monitoring of such recovery plans
Ensure funding for equality and fundamental rights of minority groups under the Multi-Annual Framework.
European Semester: European Commission releases Spring Package 2020 What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?
On 20 May 2020, the European Commission published the so-called Spring Package, comprising the 28 Country-Specific Recommendations 2020 (including the United Kingdom), and the accompanying Communication on Country-Specific Recommendations, in the framework of the 2020 European Semester. Together with its national members, ERGO Network has reviewed the Package, to see to which extent it explicitly mentions Roma rights and inclusion, as well as other key issues, such as ethnic minorities, discrimination, racism, and the role of civil dialogue.
Overall, while our members welcome references to Roma communities in the Communication and in some countries, they lament that most documents don’t explicitly mention them, where the Roma are present in all Member States except Malta, and experience rates of poverty and social exclusion of over 80% in all of them except the Czech Republic. This situation was exacerbated by the current public health, social, and economic crisis and associated containment measures, as highlighted also by the Package, hence it would have warranted more attention paid to one of Europe’s most left-behind communities. For the CSRs that do mention the Roma, our members agree with the challenges identified for their countries, however they would have liked to see a more comprehensive, integrated approach across the four pillars of the National Roma Integration Strategies, with notably housing being conspicuously missing from the analysis. This is particularly important in the context of the upcoming renewal of the EU Strategic Framework for Roma Inclusion, scheduled for later this year.
While the recurrent focus on mitigating the consequences for vulnerable groups is very positive, it is our members’ experience that, unless the Roma are explicitly named as key target beneficiaries of support measures, mainstream initiatives and dedicated national and EU funds end up not reaching them. Europe’s Roma must be specifically prioritised in the EU’s Recovery Package and associated funds, if the EU is serious about delivering on its commitments for Roma inclusion. Our members equally express disappointment that issues of discrimination and antigypsyism are not present in the Package, as these have increased in recent years, and even more so during the pandemic. Finally, they deplore the lack of recognition and support given to civil society organisations in the documents, given that most of them were not only on the frontlines during the pandemic, providing essential support to communities in need, but they equally possess the knowledge, expertise, and direct links to beneficiaries which are needed to inform the design of public policies and ensure both ownership and effectiveness of interventions.
See below the Key Findings of the analysis, and access the full report here.
The Communication accompanying the Country-Specific Recommendations highlights the Roma as one of the most affected groups by poverty, inequality, and social exclusion.
In contrast, for the first time since 2012, not a single Country-Specific Recommendation 2020 mentions the Roma, while there were 4 in 2019 (Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia).
The Roma are only mentioned in the Preamble for 4 Member States (Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia), the same ones as the 2019 Preambles, minus the Czech Republic.
Ethnic minorities, discrimination, and racism are completely absent from all 28 documents, while only the blanket, vague term of “vulnerable groups” is typically used.
Civil society is only mentioned in 4 Preambles (Finland, Hungary, Portugal, Slovenia), while in contrast social partners are referred to in 3 CSRs and 16 Preambles.
For more information about ERGO Network’s work on EU social inclusion and employment policy (European Semester, Europe 2020, European Pillar of Social Rights, Sustainable Development Goals etc), please contact Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro.
Slovo 21 has been very active in the last weeks, focusing their efforts on their contributions to ERGO Network’s Annual Work Programme Roma Included in Social Europe (RIISE).
National Roma Integration Strategy:
Since May 2020 NGO Slovo 21 has been organizing meetings with the network of Roma NGOs in the Czech Republic to discuss the Strategy of Roma Integration 2021 – 2030. Roma representatives met with the coordinators of the Strategy (SRI) at the Office of the Government to express disagreement with the SRI prepared by the government. On June 19th, Roma representatives together with the relevant government resorts met with EU Commission desk officers to discuss the SRI. So far, Roma NGOs cooperate closely and prepare suggestions for new goals of the SRI in order to reach the best results and to include Roma indicators in new SRI.
Community-Led Local Development
On May 21st Slovo 21 met with the representatives from the newly built Roma Centre in Náchod to discuss further cooperation between local authorities, Local Action Group (LAG) and the Roma community in Náchod city. We were informed about the achievements and planned activities. After the meeting with the Roma representatives, we met with the representatives of LAG Stolové Hory to discuss future cooperation with the Roma community from Náchod city, the membership of NGO Slovo 21 in LAG Stolové Hory and our contribution to CLLD.
On 29 June, we met with Roma activists to prepare our next steps. We targeted issues and discussed about a survey to find out the needs of the Roma community in Náchod city. We then met with the mayor of Náchod to discuss our cooperation and offer our activities to the city, including the organization of a festival of Roma culture in Náchod. The meeting was successful: The mayor is positive about the planned activities and is supporting the festival.
On 15 June, we also met with representatives of the LAG Opavsko to learn about opportunities, discuss issues of the Roma community and plan a meeting with the mayor of the city – Budišov and Budišovkou.
On 29/30 May, Seven Roma women – the local coordinators from five different Czech localities – participated in a two-day capacity building meeting in Prague. During the meeting participants received information about the CLLD process, small grants and future activities. An important part of the capacity building meeting was to share experiences, challenges and successes with the cooperation with local authorities and plan the next steps of their work.
From 26-28 June, more than 15 Roma women participated in the next capacity building meeting together with their local coordinators. During the meeting, the Roma women from 5 localities improved their competences to work in the CLLD process. Our goal was to inform them about the CLLD process and the activities they could organize in their localities. The meeting was organized together with the coordinator of Roma women group Manushe.
German ERGO Network member Amaro Drom produced two interesting online lectures by Prof. Dr. Hristo Kyuchukov that are dedicated to 8th April, the International Romani Day and 16th May, the Romani Resistance Day. These lectures were recorded within the framework of the project „Jekhipe – Together” in video format due to restrictions caused by COVID-19 epidemics. Both lectures are recorded in Romani language and subtitles in English and German are also provided in order to cover a wide audience.
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