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Slovak NGOs call on Government to stop discriminating against Romani people in the context of testing for COVID-19 and closing settlements

9.4.2020 16:43
The Government of the Slovak Republic is testing Romani-inhabited localities for COVID-19. (April 2020) (PHOTO:  Facebook page of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic, Government of the Slovak Republic)
The Government of the Slovak Republic is testing Romani-inhabited localities for COVID-19. (April 2020) (PHOTO: Facebook page of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic, Government of the Slovak Republic)

Some nonprofits in Slovakia that concentrate on the Romani community are calling on the Government there not to discriminate against Romani people while they test them for COVID-19 and close settlements where infection is found; the full statement of their petition is below. Slovakia has been under a state of emergency since 15 March; according to the World Health Organization, official data reported this morning that there are 682 total cases in the country and there have been two deaths due to COVID-19 so far.

NGO challenge to the Government of the Slovak Republic to immediately eliminate discriminatory measures against marginalized Romani communities

We all know the current situation in the Romani communities is a consequence of those involved having waited too long, having underestimated the situation, and not having not paid enough attention to people returning to Slovakia from abroad and heading back to the environments of the most impoverished localities at the beginning of the spread of COVID-19 in Slovakia. Individuals with travel histories freely crossed the border and returned to their home environments.

From our position as NGOs and other entities actively working in communities, we have been doing our best to draw attention to the situation since the end of March, and during our efforts we warned the Government of the Slovak Republic about the fact that we perceive closing localities with the aid of the armed forces and of the Army of the Slovak Republic to be an extreme alternative that could spark panic and unrest among the people in the communities and also contribute to increasing tensions between the majority population and Romani people. Currently we have just a single piece of data available to the public, about 31 people who have tested positive in five communities, out of roughly 1 000 people tested, which certainly, in our opinion, does not represent a percentage of infected persons that would necessitate closing entire communities with the aid of the armed forces.

This is a relatively low number of people whom it would be possible to immediately relocate into purpose-built facilities, as is happening in the case of majority-society people who have returned from abroad. Measures that limit the freedom of movement and liberty of citizens to a significant degree contravene the declarations that people from marginalized communities are being treated equally.

We are asking that the Government of the Slovak Republic approach the most vulnerable citizens in these marginalized communities without using the kinds of measures that spark concerns about discriminatory behavior and that stigmatize Romani men and women as the origins of infection! We are calling on the Government of the Slovak Republic to do what they said they would do  and to oversee the securing of dignified conditions for individuals in marginalized communities that will be put under forced quarantine!

If the Government of the Slovak Republic intends to bring the spread of coronavirus under control, it is their obligation to treat all citizens of the Slovak Republic equally and, where necessary, they should close down entire municipalities, not just the communities of marginalized Romani people. Under the current situation, we are asking for the expansion of this preventive testing for all groups at risk, including individuals from the majority population who may have potentially come into contact with persons who have tested positive in different parts of Slovakia.

Signed:

Ing. Ingrid Kosová, PhD. - chair of Quo vadis, o. z.

Mgr. Vlado Rafael, PhD. - director of eduRoma, o. z.

Mgr. Zuzana Havířová - Romani Advocacy and Research Center (RAVS)

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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COVID-19, Neziskový sektor, Slovakia, Testování v romských osadách na COVID-19



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