North Macedonia selects just Romani people crossing the border for quarantine in unhygienic conditions
The European Roma Rights Centre reports that nine Romani musicians travelling home to North Macedonia were the only people to be selected from among a convoy of 200 travelers for quarantine at the border. The nine were the first people to be quarantined on returning to the country, and the only ones in the convoy to be held despite having no symptoms of the COVID-19 virus and signing a solemn declaration to participate in the country's compulsory self-isolation measures once they arrived at their destination.
North Macedonian Health Minister Venko Filipce first announced on 17 March that the entire group of 200 people arriving at the Deve Bair border crossing would be quarantined because they were arriving from Austria and Italy, which are deemed medium-risk and high-risk countries, respectively, in the ongoing pandemic. He announced that "all of them will be placed in a group quarantine in the Prepeliste army building in Krivolak, where they will have a medical team who will do check-ups, give them food, and everything that is needed will be provided".
Defense Minister Radmila Shekerinska then posted to her official Facebook page that all citizens coming from high-risk countries would be quarantined until tests could be carried out to determine if they carried the novel coronavirus. However, the only people to be taken to the Prepeliste compound were a group of nine Romani musicians (the Orkestar Veseli Momci group), who had traveled from the medium-risk country of Austria.
The whereabouts of the other people who crossed the border at that place and time are apparently a mystery. Later announcements from the Health Minister suggested that they had yet to be granted entry, but eyewitness reports from a TV24 journalist said many were allowed to walk across the border after signing a solemn declaration to participate in the country's compulsory self-isolation measures for 14 days.
It is unclear why the only people to be quarantined at that place and time were Roma, and the Government has not offered any explanation for why they were taken to Prepeliste. The Roma detainees posted a video of themselves in their isolation compound to social media showing not just that they were the only people being held there, but that the quarantine itself was being carried out in unhygienic conditions.
In the video the nine Romani men are visible, with one saying to the camera: “We only want to be tested and if we have to stay in home isolation and quarantine, we will stay, not only 14 but 30 days if needed. Here the conditions are dire. The entire world speaks about hygiene but here we can’t have that. They lie to us that 200 people will be placed here, but it's only the nine of us, all Roma.”
After that social media post, the men were relocated to the small town of Demir Kapija and given COVID-19 tests, all of which came back negative. Those results were publicly reported by the local mayor through his Facebook profile instead of being delivered directly to each individual person tested.
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