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COVID-19: Rapporteur denounces discrimination against Roma and Travellers

“Throughout Europe, there are Roma and Travellers living in desperately inadequate, insalubrious, unsafe conditions, without access to running water, sanitation or other public utilities, and often in a situation of severe overcrowding. Instead of seeking additional ways to protect these particularly vulnerable members of our societies as coronavirus spreads, some politicians have actively fuelled anti-Gypsyism,” said František Kopřiva (Czech Republic, ALDE), PACE rapporteur on discrimination against Roma and Travellers in the field of housing.

“Preventive measures such as staying indoors, social distancing and regular hand-washing can become impossible in these circumstances, while access to disinfectant gels, face-masks and even basic information about preventive measures is often illusory,” he added.

“Coupled with an often poor state of health, which is itself in large part attributable to poor living conditions as well as high levels of poverty, this places these Roma and Travellers at particular risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, and of becoming gravely ill from it. Tragically, some communities are already mourning multiple deaths among their members,” said the rapporteur.

“I was shocked to learn that, as lockdowns are increasingly imposed and public transport services reduced in many countries, some authorities have rejected proposals to facilitate access to welfare payments in isolated settlements. In parallel, social workers have had to reduce their activities in such areas as they lack the necessary equipment to ensure that they do not contribute to spreading the virus.

“Every State’s human rights record is only as good as the situation of their least well-off citizens,” he added. “Roma and Travellers have been made vulnerable by centuries of neglect and discrimination in our societies. As the coronavirus crisis makes tragically clear, they now urgently need our care.”