Dom refugees from Syria tell ERRC "We just want to live"
Members of the Dom minority have been subjected to decades of discrimination in Syria and across the Middle East. Now that they are fleeing Syria and seeking refuge in neighboring countries, they are experiencing discrimination on a whole new set of grounds as asylum-seekers.
A new report from the European Roma Right Centre (ERRC) provides insight into the hardships suffered by the Dom as part of the refugee crisis. Those interviewed in Turkey had been directly affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria and stressed that they are not interested in participating on any side of it.
“We are not hostile towards anyone. We just want to live,” one Dom asylum-seeker told researchers.
Non-Arab minorities in Syria are not legally recognized. The Dom have been subjected to various stereotypes there that result in their being treated as second-class citizens.
Dom people in Turkey who are now refugees are living in informal encampments. Most interviewed by the ERRC had no access to clean water and not enough food.
ERRC Executive Director András Ujlaky emphasized that Dom refugees from the Kurdish region are particularly vulnerable to discrimination. The NGO is urging the international community to develop comprehensive integration policies for all of the various ethnic groups fleeing Syria.
The term "Dom" refers to a Middle Eastern minority who are connected with the Lom of Armenia, the Caucusus and Eastern Anatolia, as well as with the Roma of Europe. They form a distinct linguistic group that speaks the Domari language.
NGO sources estimate there are more than 40 000 Dom people in Syria. In 2012 a Syrian newspaper reported the number at more than 60 000.
Inside Syria the Dom reportedly live itinerantly in their own encampments, although some also live in houses. The largest communities have been reported near Aleppo, Damascus, Hama, Homs, Saraqib and Latakia.
The ERRC interviews were conducted between September 2014 and January 2015. The report also interviewed representatives of international organizations and NGOs.
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