Ukrainian Roma Refugee Odyssey in Central and Eastern Europe

Challenges and Urgent Needs: Ukrainian Roma Refugee Odyssey in Central and Eastern Europe

Today marks two years since the beginning of the war in Ukraine on 24 February. Since the very beginning, ERGO Network has been supporting Ukrainian Roma both in Ukraine and abroad as they sought refuge in other countries in Europe. The war triggered a migration crisis of a proportion Europe was not prepared for: among the 5 million Ukrainian refugees, approximately 100,000 Roma individuals. From that very first day, through our work with our member organisation, Roma Women Fund Chiricli, we have followed the journeys of many Ukrainian Roma, setting up emergency funds and providing money for food, medicine or petrol to individuals and families.

In the true spirit of ERGO Network, our work on Ukraine started from the very grassroots and scaled up in those two difficult years into a fully-fledged line of work, with the support of EPIM and other smaller grants. Today, on this sad anniversary, we would like to share with you one of the results of this work: the Monitoring Report of the Situation of Ukrainian Roma Refugees in Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Moldova and Slovakia. Our member organisations and associates brought it together, painting the big picture with the brushstrokes of individual interviews and research analysis.

The focus of this crisis goes beyond sheer numbers. In Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Moldova, and Slovakia, Roma refugees from Ukraine face enduring discrimination rooted in cultural-historical issues, presenting challenges not commonly encountered by other refugees. Discrimination takes various forms, hindering access to crucial resources like housing, employment, information, and support services.

Despite the implementation of Temporary Protection (TP) and subsequent enhancements, the vulnerabilities of the Roma community within refugee populations persist. Cultural differences, discrimination, and limited education continue to shape their journey, resulting in subpar conditions and ongoing challenges.

The report, drawing from diverse data sources and covering the period until June 2023, provides a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by Roma refugees in these countries. It underscores the imperative for sustained attention and targeted interventions to address the unique challenges confronted by the Roma refugee community.

Major Findings: A Closer Look

The Roma refugee crisis unfolded in two distinct periods, with concrete measures taken by individual countries crucial for understanding and addressing challenges specific to the Roma community. Across Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Moldova, and Slovakia, multifaceted challenges rooted in cultural-historical issues permeate crucial aspects like housing, employment, and support services.

In Poland, the collective approach of Roma refugees seeking security exacerbates challenges for activists facing substantial personal, financial, and societal pressures due to antigypsyism. Hungary grapples with historical racial marginalisation, necessitating a comprehensive strategy to address prolonged shelter stays and align with EU guidelines.

The Czech Republic views Roma refugees mainly as transient, demanding urgent attention for their long-term integration. Despite a robust legal framework, Romania confronts housing, education, employment, and healthcare challenges. Moldova contends with persistent disparities, emphasising the need for concerted efforts to bridge gaps in access to services, combat discrimination, and enhance advocacy initiatives.

The Slovak Republic, while actively assisting Ukrainian refugees, highlights instances of bias and challenges faced by Roma families. Slovakia’s legal framework and support measures reveal areas where targeted interventions are crucial to address discrimination and ensure equitable treatment for all refugees, including the Roma community.

Persisting Challenges Despite Efforts

While certain aspects, such as advancements in legal frameworks and increased awareness, offer positive aspects, socioeconomic problems, discrimination, and barriers to employment persist. ERGO Network Coordinator for Ukraine Dejan Markovic criticised the ‘colour-blind’ approach of service providers exacerbates the situation, overlooking institutional antigypsyism and challenges faced by the Roma refugee community:

“Ukrainian Roma refugees, forced to flee conflict and persecution, face not only the challenges of displacement but also the risks of discrimination and marginalisation in their quest for safety and stability.”

Increased awareness regarding the discrimination faced by Roma refugees has prompted advocacy and awareness campaigns, fostering improved understanding and collaboration among stakeholders. Yet, the prolonged armed conflict has intensified challenges within Roma communities, affecting socioeconomic indicators and hindering access to essential services.

Persistent barriers to employment, particularly for Roma women, highlight ongoing challenges. Limited educational access and language barriers remain formidable obstacles, indicating the need for targeted interventions.

Discrimination against Roma refugees, particularly in Central and Eastern European countries, remains pronounced. The report emphasises the imperative for targeted interventions, ongoing monitoring, and adaptive strategies to address the distinct challenges faced by the Roma refugee community.

Recommendations for International organisations

Recommendations put forth in the report include implementing comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, streamlining asylum processes, providing free legal counselling, launching public awareness campaigns, ensuring equitable healthcare access, offering language and integration classes, developing job placement and vocational training programs, supporting NGOs, fostering collaboration, and establishing data collection and monitoring mechanisms.

The report recommends sustaining and evolving collaborative efforts for international organisations, emphasising the importance of ongoing engagement with the Roma Coordination Group and incorporating contributions from thematic meetings conducted by UN WOMEN.

For the European Union, the report urges heightened awareness, the universal application of the Temporary Protection Directive, and the adoption of promising initiatives observed in certain EU countries. A multifaceted approach at the EU and national levels is recommended, encompassing legal frameworks, streamlined asylum processes, culturally sensitive services, public awareness campaigns, and financial support for NGOs.

For the past two years, we have worked jointly with our member organisations and independent Roma researchers to create a comprehensive analysis of the so-called bigger picture by bringing the perspective of the grassroots and connecting and empowering them. It is not in our power to stop the war. Still, we hope this report serves as a compelling call to action, stressing the need for sustained efforts to ensure the inclusion and well-being of the Roma refugee community in the broader European context.

Ukrainian Roma Refugee Odyssey in Central and Eastern Europe – ERGO Network

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.