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September 29, 2022



International Roma Contact Group: OSCE states must treat Roma refugees from Ukraine equally and Ukraine must treat internally displaced Roma like other IDPs

10.8.2022 17:38
Romani refugees at the main railway station in Prague. (2022) (PHOTO:  Lukáš Cirok)
Romani refugees at the main railway station in Prague. (2022) (PHOTO: Lukáš Cirok)

The International Roma Contact Group (IRCG) which has been convened by the Contact Point for Roma and Sinti at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR), has called on the participating states of the OSCE to ensure the equal treatment of Roma refugees from Ukraine and has also called on Ukraine to ensure the equal treatment of internally displaced persons (IDPs) of Roma origin who have fled their homes but remained on the territory of Ukraine as it undergoes invasion and occupation by the Russian Army. "Roma refugees from Ukraine are encountering various forms of unequal treatment while seeking refuge in receiving countries," reads the joint statement that has been sent to news server by members of the IRCG.

"This involves discrimination in their access to housing, employment, transportation and the failure to provide them with financial contributions and services that are provided to other refugees from Ukraine," reads the joint statement. "We cannot allow the antigypsyism against Roma refugees that is being committed by authorities and volunteers in many receiving countries to be tolerated."

"Alleged violations of international humanitarian laws on human rights and refugees must be investigated and prosecuted," the activists on human rights issues impacting Roma say. The same approach must be taken toward Roma IDPs in Ukraine.

"It is necessary to immediately pay more attention to protecting the human rights of Roma IDPs in Ukraine," the IRCG members say, adding that Roma who have remained in Ukraine have been exposed to disease and hunger because military operations have cut off their access to food, medical supplies, and to schools; they also warn that it is unacceptable for politicians to label the Roma fleeing the Russo-Ukrainian war as "economic migrants" or "social tourists". "Such designations promote anti-Roma sentiment in general and can increase the social tensions between non-Roma and Roma people," the activists say. 

"Such labels also create a dangerous space in which human rights violations can happen," the activists say. In the Czech Republic, for example, Roma refugees from Ukraine have been labeled this way both by Czech President Miloš Zeman and by several Regional Governors who have refused to accommodate Roma refugees from Ukraine on their territories. 

Children's health and safety should be the priority of all the OSCE states with regard to those fleeing the war, according to the IRCG. "Children and their caregivers must not be accommodated in locations that are too far away from goods and services and must never be ethnically segregated," says the IRCG statement. 

When it comes to asylum proceedings and temporary protection, the activists are also calling on the OSCE states to ensure treatment that is equal and non-discriminatory for Roma refugees, including those with dual citizenship or those who are stateless, by providing them with free legal aid, interpretation, and other kinds of assistance. According to the IRCG, it is also necessary for Roma to be involved in decision-making about the implementation of short-term and long-term plans for assistance to Roma refugees from Ukraine.

Helena Markusová, Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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