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11 May 2020

Shaun Walker, The Guardian

COVID-19 highlights lack of social protections for Roma communities facing increased health risks, economic deprivation & stigmatisation

"Europe's marginalised Roma people hit hard by coronavirus", 11 May 2020

Europe’s largest minority, the Roma people, are being particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic in many countries, because they face a combination of health risks, economic deprivation and increased stigmatisation.

Around 80% of Europe’s 10 million Roma live in densely populated neighbourhoods and overcrowded houses, and many do not have access to running water. This means the basic distancing and sanitary measures required to combat the spread of the virus are more difficult. In some countries this has already led to scapegoating of Roma communities as potential illness hotspots...

“Even if there was some justification for concern, the security measures have not been followed up by proper health measures and social aid measures...” said Zeljko Jovanovic, the head of the Open Society Roma initiatives...

Many Roma people work in grey market day-to-day jobs, meaning they were laid off as the pandemic hit, and may not be eligible for state compensation schemes. Others returned to central and eastern European countries from jobs in western Europe at the start of the pandemic, often because their income sources had dried up because work was cancelled. Back home, they often have no health insurance and few safety nets...