Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth issued the following statement today (8 April) on International Roma Day:
For almost 50 years now, International Roma Day has offered an opportunity to draw the world’s attention to the discrimination and persecution suffered by Sinti and Roma. At the same time, it has also always been a celebration of the culture of the largest ethnic minority in Europe. This year, the focus will once more be on the concerns.
The extensive economic shutdown due to the massive spread of the coronavirus presents special problems for the Sinti and Roma minority. In terms of healthcare, hygiene, housing, water, electricity and food, Roma continue to have very limited access to basic essentials. In some countries, governments have aggravated this dramatic situation by isolating entire neighbourhoods. That stigmatises the people concerned in an unacceptable manner. Even in normal times, Roma are often subjected to racism, sometimes – as the attack in Hanau showed – with deadly consequences. And they are being victimised even more during the corona crisis. As Europeans we have a special responsibility to take particular care of the vulnerable and the poor and to protect them from racism.
We welcome the European Commission’s decision to review its programmes and to divert funds to alleviate the acute hardship facing Roma. We have agreed to divert resources already granted from projects to vulnerable groups in Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Kosovo. This will make it possible for NGOs operating locally to respond more flexibly to the difficult situation. Among other things, the funding will be used to procure care packages containing basic foodstuffs as well as sanitary and hygiene products. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, it will be used to make available protective equipment which is also urgently needed in the refugee camp in Bihac.