Europe’s marginalised Roma people hit hard by coronavirus

 A police officer patrols outside a Roma settlement in Krompachy, Slovakia.
Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters

Date of Publication: May 11, 2020

Source: The Guardian

Europe’s largest minority, the Roma people, are especially negatively impacted by COVID-19.  Approximately 80% of the 10 million Roma live in dense neighbourhoods and overcrowded houses, and many do not have access to running water. This makes distancing and hand washing to reduce spread of the virus difficult.

Some countries are using Roma communities as scapegoats for potential illness hotspots. For example, in Bulgaria and Slovakia, two of the six countries with significant numbers of Roma communities, Roma neighbourhoods have been closed off due to fear of COVID-19 spread.

Furthermore, income opportunities for many Roma individuals are day-to-day jobs. Most were laid off when the pandemic began and many are not eligible for state compensations. Furthemore, many families do not have internet connection at home or enough devices for their children, which makes distance learning difficult. 

COVID-19 exacerbates pre-existing issues of adequate housing, low economic opportunities, discrimination and poor health. Maya Grekova, a sociology professor at Sofia University, highlights that the pandemic has made some impact on authorities: “State institutions started to realize that they need to help these people, not only to blame them. Institutions don’t like to go to Roma neighbourhoods and work with people there, but now maybe some of them understand it’s their obligation.”

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Summary by: Jayoti Rana