News Item

Ensure equal treatment for Roma fleeing Ukraine

Ukraine and Roma flag
Vlad ©, 2022
With war still raging in Ukraine, Europe needs to pay special attention to Roma seeking sanctuary in the European Union, says the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) on International Roma Day. FRA is concerned about allegations of difficulties and possible discrimination at the EU borders. It recommends that authorities take appropriate action and investigate any such complaints in line with EU law.

“The war in Ukraine is casting a long shadow over Europe, leaving many people destitute as they flee the turmoil. For the Roma community in particular, long marginalised and discriminated against in Europe, the impact of this terrifying conflict adds to their precarious plight,” says FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty. “The EU needs to be vigilant to guard against unequal treatment. Overwhelming solidarity has been the hallmark of Europe’s response to date. EU countries should guarantee Roma enjoy the same fundamental rights as others.”

Even though FRA did not observe any discriminatory or racist acts during its field visits, it notes with concern reports in the media and from civil society that some Roma were left waiting for transportation at border crossing points. Some people refuse to sleep in the same tents with Roma families or travel in the same vehicles with them. Such incidents should be immediately reported to the authorities or to civil society organisations who can help victims lodge complaints.

Promising initiatives, such as those in Slovakia, should be considered by other EU countries. They include informing the government daily of the situation at borders concerning Roma; liaising with relevant civil society organisations; translating key documents and information on trafficking into Romani; providing practical support for transport to accommodation, registration and medical assistance; and placing monitoring teams at border crossing points.

FRA has long documented widespread discrimination towards Roma across the EU. Our large-scale Roma surveys point to high levels of antigypsyism. They also show that from education to employment, from housing to healthcare, many Roma do not have the same opportunities compared to the general public.

Many Roma children, in particular, experience bullying and drop out of school early. In addition, Roma women typically fare worse than Roma men. This is especially worrying given most people fleeing Ukraine are women and children.

Given the long history of Roma exclusion and discrimination, countries across the EU need to be especially mindful of the challenges facing many Roma fleeing Ukraine. They should ensure that their rights are respected.