(Post-)Pandemic Life Together

(Post-)Pandemic Life Together

This spring arrived accompanied by many challenges for our work. Instead of shrinking back, we battened down the hatches and continued supporting people with fewer opportunities.

During March, one of our localities became an epicentre of a special mutation of the corona virus. Many families, Roma and non-Roma, found themselves in the middle of danger of contagion. Together with other local NGOs and volunteers we distributed FFP2 respirators and masks and discussed the situation with adults and children.

Keeping the seriousness of the pandemic situation in mind, we tried hard to preserve the quality and quantity of our services and activities that we offer to local people in need. Instead of cancelling our events and appointments, we equipped our teams with protective aid or searched for alternative ways of helping the community. The arrival of spring allowed us to hold workshops outdoors, other activities took place one-to-one.

Every ten years, a Census is carried out in the Czech Republic to obtain information about the population that is not easily accessible. This May, another nation-wide census took place. As the attendance is obligatory under penalty of a fine, our street workers helped 131 households to fulfill this legal duty.

While maintaining the quality of our street work, counselling and other social services, we are also mindful of human rights aspect of our work. This spring became a milestone for women who suffered – and still suffer – from forced sterilisation. At the beginning of May, after many years of struggle, the Chamber of Deputies passed a bill on compensation for the female victims.

Since Czech schools implemented distance learning, children needed extra support to cope with online lessons. We restored our „outdoor school“ and offered assistance with homework or learning on-spot. For families that were not endowed with digital devices, we arranged computers and laptops as a gift in cooperation with the Česko.digital initiative.

To celebrate the International children’s day, all teams prepared special activities for the children and young people they work with. Almost hundred children from Liscina, a neighbourhood once flooded, gathered for fun outdoor activities and received sweet rewards. Other events related to the International children’s day and the end of the school year will take place all over the localities we work in. Preparations for our traditional summer camp are already under way as well.

News from Pavee Point, Ireland

News from Pavee Point, Ireland

Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre focused our work in recent months on helping to ensure Traveller & Roma uptake of the COVID19 vaccines. We lobbied and advocated for vaccine priority for Travellers and Roma and published a briefing paper, Approach and Recommendations for COVID-19: Vaccination Prioritisation & Roll Out for Travellers and Roma.  Subsequently the Health Department recommended vaccine prioritisation for Travellers & Roma aged 18+ for the COVID-19 vaccination. To coincide with the vaccine roll-out Pavee Point released a series of videos to combat vaccine hesitancy – Travellers Take the Vaccine Campaign.  All videos can be found here.

 

In April we celebrated 50 Years of Activism (1971 – 2021) on International Roma Day .We hosted a webinar to commemorate 50 years of activism since the first World Romani Congress on the 8th of April in London in 1971. To mark the milestone, Pavee Point’s Co Director Martin Collins talked to Roma MEP, Romeo Franz and to Irish Traveller Senator Eileen Flynn about who and what inspired their activism. The video also includes a photographic look back over 50 years, Traveller and Roma music, and we heard from young Roma and Travellers on their hopes for the future. You can watch it here. 

In May 2021, Pavee Point was thrilled to be awarded funding by Rethink Ireland Equality Fund to support work in promoting Traveller education. These funds will enable us to raise issues of education discrimination – made worse by COVID-19 – and the need for a National Traveller Education Strategy. You can see a short video on our planned education programme here.

ERGO report: Impact of Covid-19

The impact of Covid-19 on Roma communities in the European Union and the Western Balkans

Together with partners from seven EU Member States, five Western Balkan countries and Turkey, ERGO Network has prepared an in-depth study about the devastating impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had and continue to has on Roma and Travellers across Europe.

Access the study here. 

The data collected in this survey confirms that marginalized Roma and Travellers are amongst the most affected and impacted by Covid-19, mainly due to their devastating living conditions and exclusion, triggered by widespread antigypsyism. As this study suggests, during the pandemic many Roma and Travellers living in poverty found it very hard to protect themselves from getting the virus because of lack of access to water and sanitation. This was even harder for those living in segregated and informal settlements and/or improvised shelters.

Despite some positive responses regarding immediate measures taken by some governments and local authorities to assist vulnerable groups, including Roma and Travellers, increasing concerns from our members called for more consolidated data in order to better understand the situation of Roma and Travellers in the EU and Western Balkans and Turkey. The data is necessary to advocate for  better institutional and political coordination and a focus on minimising the impact of the pandemic in its second and/ or third wave on vulnerable communities including Roma and Travellers.

As a result, ERGO Network together with its members and partner organisations prepared national surveys in seven EU countries and six Western Balkan countries and Turkey. The results of this survey constitute the basis of this report. Besides data on key areas of access to education, employment, basic needs, health and housing, migration, discrimination and gender aspects, it also includes recommendations from the respondents themselves as well as from ERGO Network.

This survey was possible thanks the valuable contributions from ERGO members and partners. We would like to thank in particular Roma Active Albania in Albania, Otaharin in Bosnia and Herzegovina, expert Orhan Tahir in Belgium, Integro in Bulgaria, Slovo 21 and Life Together in Czechia, Amrita OBK association in Hungary, Pavee Point in Ireland, Voice of Roma Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo, RROMA in North Macedonia, Nevo Parudimos in Romania, Roma Forum in Serbia, Roma Advocacy and Research Centre in Slovakia and Zero Discrimination association in Turkey as well as Roma and Traveller communities in all the respective countries.

We especially thank the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG) whose survey on the Covid impact (1) on Roma in Spain was used as inspiration for our ERGO survey.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on anti racism contact Isabela Mihalache , Senior Policy Adviser in the ERGO Network Brussels team.

 

ERGO Network carried out this work in the framework of the project “Roma Included in Social Europe”, funded by the EaSI Programme (all parts concerning EU Member States) and in the framework of the project “Romani Women Power of Change “ (all parts concerning Western Balkans and Turkey) carried out as a partner of Roma Active Albania and funded by the European Union.

This publication has received funding from the European Union. The information contained in this publication reflects only the authors’ view, and its contents not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. The European Union is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

This publication has received financial
support from the Foreign Office of the
Federal Republic of Germany.

 

(1) https://www.gitanos.org/actualidad/archivo/131067.html.en

THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON ROMA COMMUNITIES IN THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE WESTERN BALKANS

The Impact of Covid-19 on Roma Communities in the European Union and the Western Balkans

This survey was possible with the valuable contributions from ERGO members and partners from the European Union and Western Balkan countries and Turkey. We would like to thank in particular Roma Active Albania in Albania, Otharin in Bosnia and Herzegovina, expert Orhan Tahir in Belgium, Integro in Bulgaria, Slovo 21 and Life Together in Czechia,
Amrita OBK association in Hungary, Pavee Point in Ireland, Voice of Roma Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo*, RROMA in North Macedonia, Nevo Parudimos in Romania, Roma Forum in Serbia, Roma Advocacy and Research Centre in Slovakia and Zero Discrimination association in Turkey as well as Roma and Traveller communities in all the respective countries.

Download link

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Roma

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Roma and how to be prepared for the next crisis

Presentation during the High-level Conference launching the EU Roma Strategic Framework for Equality, Inclusion and Participation until 2030 by Adriatik Hasantari, Roma Active Albania, Vice-chair ERGO Network (12 October 2020)

During August and September 2020, ERGO Network and its members conducted a survey on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Roma in seven EU Member States, and together with Roma Active Albania in six enlargement countries. Preliminary findings show that during the first wave of Covid-19, entire Roma and Traveller communities in all selected countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey) were deeply affected in all areas of life, including regarding basic needs, housing and accommodation, education, health care, employment, poverty, and freedom from discrimination and antigypsyism. Roma women were disproportionately affected, particularly pregnant women, mothers with young children and the elderly.

Our study confirms that in the early stages of the pandemic, many governments implemented unequal and unfair lockdowns of Roma communities in Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary, despite not having any confirmed cases in these communities. Across all surveyed countries, Roma were faced with starvation after losing their income and the possibility to leave their houses to buy food. Our respondents reported that in general authorities did not provide them with masks, disinfectants and food while in lockdown or confinement.

In Hungary, children did not any longer receive previously offered free school meals, and had difficulties to learn at distance in the absence of school materials, digital equipment, electricity, or internet access. Because of overcrowding and inadequate housing conditions, many Roma families living in settlements were crammed in one single room with no means to follow preventive and sanitary measures. Our study confirmed that many Roma throughout the EU, Western Balkans and Turkey lost their jobs because of the lockdown, especially those working abroad who had to return home and did not benefit from state aid. Roma felt discriminated by the lack of action from state officials and service providers in the areas of education, healthcare, employment and state aid.

What lessons can be drawn to be better prepared for future crises?

The data collected by ERGO Network and other NGOs so far confirms without a doubt that the pandemic affected Roma and Travellers disproportionally, particularly those living in socially excluded and marginalised settings both within the EU and Enlargement countries. COVID-19 is an additional challenge to the daily exclusion and discrimination that they had already faced on a daily basis previous to the pandemic.

The pandemic revealed gaps in the approach of local authorities and governments to deal with vulnerable groups and with Roma. Exceptional cases may exist in some countries when it comes to humanitarian aid provided as one off measures. It was, however, mostly NGOs who stepped in to provide support on a regular basis.

If we learnt something from the first wave of Covid-19, it is that we simply cannot afford to be unprepared and to allow EU Member States and Enlargement countries to enter into a new crisis unscrutinised and without any concrete plans, measures and funding in place. Now more than even we need to think preventively and not reactively to what is in front of us. The EU and its Presidency have to put aside an investment package dedicated to vulnerable groups to support poor families, small and medium sized enterprises, and solo workers. The Directive for universal minimum income must be prioritised and accelerated.

The 2020 “EU Strategic Framework for Roma must be accompanied by a strong EU Council Recommendation demanding Member States to put a specific focus on humanitarian aid and a 10-year plan to fight structural racism and inequality at the centre of their policies and strategies, delivering basic services and infrastructure in Roma communities, viable solutions in the areas of education, employment, health, social protection and poverty, putting an end to forced evictions, segregation in education and housing, homelessness, hate speech, racist crime and police brutality – in order to guarantee a level playing field in the access to basic rights and services. It is clear that if we are to overcome this upcoming crisis, governments have to set higher targets and increase the scope of interventions beyond what it is in the new EU Framework, for all the countries.

The Fundamental Rights Agency has reported many times that Roma are the only European population living in absolutely inhumane conditions, in appalling and total housing deprivation. This resonates 10 times more during the  Covid-19 pandemic. There should be no pretense that all governments must put their efforts into putting an end to segregation in housing, into providing running water, electricity and garbage collection. Governments must invest in safe and green housing, including social housing for all those living in shacks, shanty towns, unsafe and inhumane conditions.

All supposedly good intentions by the EU did so far not translate into specific funding for vulnerable groups under major post 2020 EU funding and programmes. This is a failure for the human rights agenda, as the coming decade could be the most challenging for all livelihood throughout Europe and across the world. Competing interests and challenges will yet again leave those vulnerable overlooked and at the margins. This needs to change. The EU needs to change its approach towards governments and lead Europe towards substantive equality where no Roma is left behind. All EU funding, with no exception, should by default target vulnerable groups and Roma, in line with the EU’s own principles and standards.

Anti-Roma rhetoric increased significantly during the pandemic, even blaming Roma for spreading the coronavirus. NGOs tried to warn policy-makers about the dangers of antigypsyism going unrecognised and unpunished. Instead of taking these warnings seriously, many governments curtail human rights of minorities during this crisis. The EU proved to be weak and powerless with its tools and enforcement mechanisms against discrimination and racial violence.

Going forward, the EU has to set a better example for governments and their duties to uphold the rule of law and human rights and be quicker and firmer in sanctioning racist governments.

 

Case studies: Experiences of Roma individuals and communities during the pandemic.

 

 

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