Right-wing extremists and nationalist politicians in a large number of countries in Central Eastern and Southeastern Europe want to use the current crisis caused by the new corona virus to legitimise and implement their racist positions as governmental actions now.
In Bulgaria, extreme right-wing politicians have called on the government to establish checkpoints at all Roma-inhabited neighbourhoods as a “national measure”. As a result, national and local authorities have already sealed off several Roma neighbourhoods. In violation of fundamental rights, Roma are thus being excluded from all medical care, and the supply of food and all other everyday necessities is being cut off. In this way, the state institutions are deliberately preparing for a humanitarian emergency. The racism against Roma, which has existed for years in these countries on a massive scale and with a propensity for violence, takes on a new quality as a result of this state action. This again creates the danger of new pogroms against Roma.
The crisis that the corona virus has triggered internationally affects all people regardless of their origin. Instead of stigmatisation and exclusion, the responsible governments must recognise the particularly threatened situation of Roma in the countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe and take immediate, targeted measures. As a result of the existing structural racism in many regions, large parts of the Roma population have no access to drinking water and often live in desolate housing conditions. The governments of these countries have for decades been responsible for the systematic failure to build a proper infrastructure in many neighbourhoods and settlements inhabited exclusively by Roma. “The Central Council calls on these governments and the European Union to finally live up to their responsibility now and not to allow Roma to once again be used as scapegoats by nationalists and racists,” Romani Rose declared today.
The Central Council welcomes the initiatives of many governments to disseminate information about the virus in all languages and to all citizens. Close cooperation with national and local Roma organisations, which already provide intensive support for the information and education of Roma in their region, is essential in this regard. The Central Council also welcomes the initiatives of civil society and humanitarian aid organisations with the support of governments to distribute food and hygiene packages to disadvantaged groups.
However, the Central Council and other international human rights organizations are concerned that large parts of the Roma population, who have been in an increasingly desolate situation since the collapse of the socialist states, are now permanently without any means of income. “The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma therefore immediately appeals to the governments in the respective countries, to the institutions of the European Union and the Council of Europe to ensure humanitarian aid for all affected people who are without care and basic needs”, said Romani Rose.