Ahead of International Roma Day, my thoughts are with Ukrainian Roma who not only suffer from the consequences of the horrific war in Ukraine but also often face discrimination and prejudices in Europe when fleeing Ukraine. In these difficult times, it is even more important to protect Roma and Travellers from being discriminated or left behind.
During the monitoring missions that my team and I carried out in March to countries neighbouring Ukraine, we received reports of Roma families - almost exclusively composed of women and children - having been discriminated in the provision of humanitarian assistance or transportation. In some instances, evictions from transit hubs, such as train or bus stations, or shelters were also alleged. Furthermore, there are serious concerns regarding the availability of adequate shelter for some Roma families.
As I already stated on 8 April last year, referring to another crisis - the COVID-19 pandemic, respect for the rights of Roma and Travellers, especially in times of hardship, is a litmus test for European democracies. The current humanitarian crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine only puts in evidence and further amplifies the deep-seated prejudices and stereotypes that Roma and Travellers face every day in Europe.
All Council of Europe member states should increase awareness of the vulnerabilities and difficulties faced by Roma fleeing the war, within and outside of Ukraine, and increase efforts to address them. In particular, humanitarian assistance, including emergency and permanent shelter and adequate transportation, must be provided to all, without any discrimination. Effective access to housing, education, work, and health should be provided to Roma on equal terms with other persons fleeing the war in Ukraine. Moreover, it is reported that approximately 10-20% of the estimated 400,000 Roma living in Ukraine are stateless or at risk of statelessness. States should ensure that lack of identity documents or other documentation does not prevent Roma people, stateless people and those at risk of statelessness from accessing international protection or other forms of protection under national law. As we know that statelessness is a risk factor for trafficking and exploitation, states must effectively protect Ukrainian Roma women and children from risks of trafficking and exploitation as well as gender-based violence.
I salute the immense work that Roma networks and NGOs, within and outside Ukraine, carry out to alleviate the suffering of Ukrainian Roma. I reiterate my call to all Council of Europe member states to scale up humanitarian protection responses and coordinate efforts, in consultation with these existing networks on the ground. More generally, Council of Europe member states should step up efforts to fight against pervasive discrimination targeting Roma and Travellers in all fields of life throughout Europe.