IRCG joint message on Roma refugees from Ukraine

IRCG joint message on Roma refugees from Ukraine:

Joint Message and Recommendations

by participants of the International Roma Contact Group (IRCG) online meeting on Roma and Sinti populations in crisis situations with a focus on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The meeting was organised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) on 31 May 2022 and brought together 16 Roma civil society representatives and activists.

During the meeting, participants identified the key challenges and concerns currently affecting Ukrainian Roma refugees in the light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Participants put forward recommendations for action to OSCE participating States and other stakeholders to address the needs of Ukrainian Roma people.

IRCG joint message

·       Roma refugees from Ukraine encounter various forms of unequal treatment in their attempt to seek refuge in reception countries. Such treatment includes acts of discrimination in access to housing, employment, transportation, and exclusion from resources and services available to refugees. We cannot allow antigypsyism towards Roma refugees to be tolerated and perpetrated by authorities and volunteers in receiving countries. The various forms of alleged violations of international humanitarian, refugee and human rights law must be investigated and prosecuted, and the evacuation and protection of civilians, including minorities, Roma, and other marginalised groups, both within Ukraine and abroad, must be ensured in accordance with international standards.

·       Particular attention must be immediately paid to safeguarding the human rights of internally displaced Roma within Ukraine and the human rights of Roma refugees during border crossings into neighbouring countries and during travel to other countries to seek safe haven.

·       The labelling of Roma refugees as “economic migrants” or “social tourists” increases the likelihood that they could become targets of hate crime. Such language promotes general anti-Roma sentiment and can increase social tensions among all non-Roma and Roma. This creates a dangerous enabling environment for human rights violations to occur. The same thing happened to Roma escaping the Kosovo conflict 20 years ago and led to wide-scale rights violations. Discriminatory expressions of solidarity for refugees from Ukraine that exclude Roma must not be tolerated and must be sanctioned accordingly.

·       Security forces, those responsible for managing transportation systems, and those responsible for refugee intake procedures must instruct and strictly monitor their personnel. They must sanction any abuses that are committed by their employees against internally displaced Roma people or Roma refugees and must send a clear message that such abuses will not be tolerated.

·       Most interventions to help Roma are undertaken by Roma civil society organizations and activists themselves. This puts them under tremendous organizational, financial, social, and cultural pressure. In addition, while humanitarian aid in Ukraine is distributed by Roma and pro-Roma organizations, Roma communities that have no link with Roma civil society cannot receive any humanitarian support.

·       Interpretation services for internally displaced Roma people and Roma refugees, including those provided by amateur volunteers, must be provided by people who are first vetted for their commitment to the UNHCR’s basic principles of ethics for interpreting in asylum procedures.[1] Persons who refer to Roma using racial slurs and pejorative language, or who insert their personal bias into interactions, should not be allowed to interpret.

·       The health and safety of the children of internally displaced Roma people or Roma refugees as well as that of their caregivers must be prioritised by all agencies, international and national, including their accommodation in standard housing and their access to nutritionally appropriate food and medical care. Children and their caregivers must not be hosted in places that are too distant from access to goods and services and must never be ethnically segregated.

·       Roma communities who remain in Ukraine are at risk of hunger and illness as military operations cut off access to food, education, and medical supplies. Those who manage to escape the battlefields are at risk of family separation, violence, abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.

·       Many Roma families in Ukraine were and continue to be unable to cross the border because of lack of identification documents or birth certificates for children.

·       Roma children and their mothers who have moved from Ukraine to countries elsewhere in Europe in most cases remain without access to education, are isolated, and face substandard conditions in refugee reception centres.

·       Roma Holocaust survivors are in need of specific assistance and support and while some prefer to stay in Ukraine, others might be interested in being evacuated with close family members to a safe place.

Recommendations for OSCE participating States

·       To investigate and prosecute various forms of alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and to ensure the evacuation and protection of civilians, including minorities, Roma, and other marginalised groups, in accordance with international standards.

·       To ensure that the rights of internally displaced people and Roma refugees, including those holding dual citizenship or who are stateless, are respected and secured without discrimination, and that they have equal access to shelter, transportation, healthcare, humanitarian aid, employment opportunities and education.

·       To develop and put in place national mechanisms for monitoring the situation of Roma refugees in reception countries.

·       To encourage and facilitate the reporting of cases of discrimination, hate incidents and crimes, as well as other forms of intolerance toward Roma refugees, and to properly investigate such cases to ensure that they do not remain unsanctioned, and that effective compensation and counselling is provided to the victims.

·       To provide safe and adequate housing for both internally displaced Roma and Roma refugees, restricting the use of segregated and outdoor facilities such as camps and tents that meet bare minimum standards to short-term, temporary periods only, and to ensure that state-run accommodation facilities take into consideration large/extended families and their cultural habits and beliefs.

·       To ensure equal, non-discriminatory access by Roma refugees, including those holding dual citizenship and those who are stateless, to asylum and temporary protection procedures through the provision of free legal aid, interpretation, and other types of assistance.

·       To tackle the spread of negative perceptions about Roma refugees from Ukraine, their labelling as “economic migrants” or “social tourists”, and hate speech language, and to contribute to a positive narrative about Roma.

·       To include specific information about the concepts of anti-racism, equality, and non-discrimination, as well as antigypsyism, into existing programmes for the integration of foreign nationals into host societies.
·       To ensure effective prevention and protection of Roma refugees from human trafficking, exploitation, and gender-based violence.

·       To increase awareness amongst local authorities, mass media and other stakeholders about specific difficulties faced by Roma refugees and their needs.

·       To amend the existing national Roma strategic frameworks/Roma strategies and adjust them in a way that accommodates and addresses the needs of all refugees, including Roma women and children from Ukraine.

·       To extend the mandate of National Roma Contact Points in reception countries in order to allow them to deal with issues affecting Roma refugees.

·       To fund and implement social care support programmes for Roma refugees with specific needs, such as illiteracy, lack of familiarity with formal banking or with the Internet, etc.

·       To include Roma and Sinti civil society in the consultation processes regarding the development and implementation of short- and long-term decisions and assistance programmes aimed at refugees. Such decisions and programmes should consider the needs of most vulnerable groups.

·       To provide funds and support to civil society organizations, including Roma and pro-Roma ones, and to other entities who have responded to the needs of refugees from Ukraine, and strengthen their capacity.

·       To ensure that people with dual citizenship, including Roma fleeing from Ukraine, are not discriminated against and are provided adequate protection and support without the burden of lengthy administrative procedures.

·       To extend eligibility criteria for temporary protection under the EU Temporary Protection Directive in a diverse and inclusive way and in line with principles of non-discrimination as guaranteed by international and European law. This should further ensure that lack of identification documents does not prevent Roma refugees and other stateless people from seeking protection in reception countries.

·       To ensure that refugees who wish to return to Ukraine are provided with relevant assistance, and those who cannot return have access to temporary protection and temporary residence permits.

·       To prevent and address situations of statelessness, and to ensure that every child has a birth registration document.

·       To establish and put in place counselling programmes for all refugees, including Roma, in all reception countries.

·       To facilitate the collection of funds aimed at providing support and help for Roma refugees.

·       Where Roma mediators are used by state authorities, engage them in this work and assistance for Roma refugees.

·       To support civil society organisations working with refugees with psycho-social assistance and legal advice.

·       To explicitly support survivors of the Holocaust in Ukraine and to support their evacuation if requested.

For OSCE structures, including ODIHR-CPRSI

·       OSCE/ODIHR to provide training to Roma civil society organizations and activists on the following topics: How to respond to the needs of Roma refugees in line with human rights principles; working in a trauma-informed way; international human rights and humanitarian law standards; crisis management; risk mitigation; communication with local and national authorities; advocacy and building bridges at the international and transnational levels.

·       ODIHR-CPRSI to conduct continuous monitoring of the situation of Roma refugees in Ukraine and in reception countries.

·       ODIHR-CPRSI to conduct monitoring missions to the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia to assess the human rights situation of Roma refugees from Ukraine.

·       ODIHR-CPRSI to conduct a situation assessment mission and produce a subsequent report on the human rights situation of Roma in Ukraine in light of the ongoing conflict.

·       ODIHR-CPRSI to facilitate the exchange of possible good practices found in Ireland and Norway to reception countries, in respect to providing support to Roma refugees.

·       ODIHR-CPRSI to reiterate the commitments of the OSCE participating States with respect to Roma in the context of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and to encourage efforts targeting refugees without identification documents for assistance with acquiring valid identification.

·       ODIHR-CPRSI to follow up with participating States on the issues flagged by civil society in regard to the segregation, discrimination and other forms of unequal treatment of Roma refugees in the reception countries.

·       ODIHR-CPRSI to keep regular consultations with civil society organizations and to facilitate information-sharing among activists and human rights defenders at the international and national level.

·       OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities to conduct field visits to the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, and Slovakia to investigate interethnic conflicts and tensions that have the potential to arise in relation to Roma and other minority refugees from Ukraine, and to investigate existing incidents targeting Roma refugees.

For civil society

·       To prepare a joint statement from the members of the IRCG to the Ukrainian authorities urging them to pay more attention to the situation of Ukrainian citizens of Roma origin and other socially and economically vulnerable groups.

·       To maintain coordination among all members of the IRCG by means of conducting periodic meetings, data collection and aggregation.

For the mass media

·       To abide by the ethical guidelines of the Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists and the Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists of the International Federation of Journalists[2] when publishing material about internally displaced Roma people and Roma refugees from Ukraine.

For other stakeholders

·       European Commission to extend the provisions of the Temporary Protection Directive to all people fleeing Ukraine, including to third-country nationals.

·       European Commission to extend the protection period of the Temporary Protection Directive beyond March 2023.

·       European Commission to call on the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive for other recurring crises.

·       European Commission to call on EU Member States to ensure that racial minorities and other refugees are not profiled and/or discriminated against when applying for temporary protection under the Temporary Protection Directive and that not forced to apply for asylum, including when lacking any personal documentation, as is the case of many Roma.

·       European Commission to communicate with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency to ensure that border authorities understand the provisions within the Temporary Protection Directive which allow for the issuing of emergency documentation to those without passports.

·       European Commission to urgently inquire from the Member States of the European Union to report on their short-, mid- and long-term plans on ensuring equal treatment of Roma refugees from Ukraine.

·       European Commission to support the process of adaptation and implementation of the strategy for promoting the realisation of the rights and opportunities of persons belonging to the Roma national minority in Ukrainian society for the period up to 2030.

·       International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure provision of humanitarian aid for Roma people in Ukraine through the active involvement of Roma civil society organizations.

·       International human rights organizations to monitor the human rights situation of Roma refugees and to flag the most significant concerns related to discrimination and unequal treatment towards of Roma in Ukraine and in reception countries.

·       United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to provide more information about the situation at border crossings, in particular regarding undocumented and stateless Roma.

·       Intergovernmental organizations to co-ordinate joint efforts on addressing the specific concerns of Roma refugees.

·       General: To support Roma volunteers and provide funding to Roma civil society organizations working with Roma refugees.

·       General: To establish contact with humanitarian organizations working at the borders and in reception centres to raise awareness about specific barriers for Roma refugees and to build bridges with Roma volunteers.

Signatories to this message:

Organizations:

Asociația Jurisților Romi ROMAJUST

European Roma Grassroots Organizations (ERGO) Network

European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)

Jaw Dikh Foundation

Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti and Roma

 

Individuals:

Gwendolyn Albert

Eugen Ghiță

Elżbieta Mirga-Wójtowicz

[1] https://www.unhcr.org/dach/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2017/09/AUT_Handbook-Asylum-Interpreting_en.pdf

[2] https://www.ifj.org/who/rules-and-policy/global-charter-of-ethics-for-journalists.html

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