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Covid-19, and the public health measures taken to curtail its spread, caused widespread suffering. But the pandemic hit some people harder than others. Roma children with no computers or internet access lost out on their education as it went online. Border patrols detained older migrants as they crossed into Europe without the right papers. Authorities overlooked the needs of people with disabilities as they acted to stop the virus’ spread.
Low-income workers in the gig economy on precarious hourly paid employment contracts were less able to access social security, health insurance and emergency benefits that could help them through the impact of the pandemic. They were also more likely to work in sectors most affected by restrictions, including hospitality and tourism.
Marginalised young people were particularly exposed, according to the European Youth Forum. Three-quarters believed they were learning less. They were twice as likely to have stopped working.
Such inequalities already existed before the Coronavirus pandemic. But its impact made matters worse, as our 2021 Fundamental Rights Report shows.
In addition, many civil society organisations face more difficulties defending human rights, again made worse by the pandemic.
In parallel, in many places substantial progress made over the past decades is now questioned and revisited as populism continues to erode human rights systems and structures.
This is also reflected in society. For example, in some EU countries, over 70% LGBTI respondents surveyed by FRA say society is more tolerant towards LGBTI people, while in others, up to 68% say it is less.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the Human Rights Day celebrates, clearly states that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’.
And generally, people agree. When we asked people across the EU, 88% say that human rights are important for creating a fairer society.
This should guide and inspire policymakers. Equality, inclusion, and non-discrimination, in essence a human rights-based approach, is the best way to reduce inequalities.
This means addressing and finding solutions for longstanding discrimination that holds back many groups across society. This includes ethnic minorities, migrants or people with disabilities.
Recent EU strategies tackling racism, antisemitism, and advancing child rights and the rights of people with disabilities, to name just a few, offer grounds of hope.
FRA, as a matter of priority, will continue to gather the evidence and data that policymakers throughout Europe need to drive real change, guiding their Covid-19 responses and recovery.
By working with impacted communities, together, we can build a better future, one that is based on fundamental human rights.