The Stream

Is coronavirus putting Europe’s Roma further behind?

On Wednesday, February 17 at 19:30 GMT:
Coronavirus vaccination programmes are now underway in European countries after a shaky start. But while Covid-19 has had a devastating impact across the continent, it has particularly harmed Romani and Traveller communities.

There are an estimated 10 to 12 million Roma living in Europe, in countries including Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, the UK and Spain. Long marginalised by wider society, people in Romani and Traveller communities are enduring serious challenges keeping coronavirus at bay while maintaining their way of life.

With the vast majority of Romani and Traveller people in Europe living in poverty within densely populated areas or overcrowded settlements, the ability of families to practice social distancing is extremely limited. The EU estimates that about 30 percent of Roma live in households without direct access to tap water, while 40 percent do not have sanitary facilities within their dwellings – a major hurdle to hygiene practices that help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Many live far from healthcare facilities and without immediate access to a doctor.

But beyond the immediate public health challenges, activists and advocates say the pandemic is further diminishing Romani and Traveller communities’ social and economic prospects. Home schooling is a near impossibility for poor Romani and Traveller families who have little access to reliable internet connections, increasing the likelihood that children drop out of full-time education. And with the vast majority of Romani and Travellers relying on informal employment to get by, the wider economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic is especially felt by families who have little or no access to financial help when work dries up.

Families in Hungary, Czech Republic and Bulgaria are among those who have faced eviction and homelessness. Romani and Travellers have faced higher levels of “hate speech, discrimination and stigmatisation” since the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic, a Council of Europe steering committee says.

In this episode of The Stream we’ll hear about how Romani and Travellers across Europe are faring amid the pandemic, and what is most urgently needed to better protect them.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Dijana Pavlovic, @pavlodija
Spokesperson, Kethane Movement

Zeljko Jovanovic, @jovanovicz
Director, Open Society Roma Initiatives

Jonathan Lee, @jon_j_lee
Spokesperson, European Roma Rights Centre