On 1 April 2022 the Council of Europe’s Roma and Travellers Team and the No Hate Speech and Cooperation Unit organised an online consultation meeting with Roma NGOs active in Ukraine.
Despite the difficult conditions civil society activists are facing, especially in active war zones in the South-East of Ukraine, 35 representatives of Roma NGOs from all over Ukraine attended the consultation, organised by the Council of Europe with the participation of other international organisations. Participants discussed the current needs of Ukrainian Roma, in particular humanitarian aid, evacuation passages and access to support services for refugees and displaced persons, legal aid and policies, and documentation of war crimes.
The Roma Women’s Fund “Chiricli”, stressed the severity of the ongoing attacks and the humanitarian crisis facing Roma communities around Ukraine: “As a historically marginalised minority, Roma face discrimination in all parts of Europe, including Ukraine, but Roma Civil Society Organisations have always been able to work freely in cooperation with the Ukrainian Government, to address these issues and we have always been able to raise our concerns in front of international organisations, without fear of persecution”.
Participants reported that, as for all Ukrainians, the war has led to loss of life, mass displacement and challenges to the protection of the rights of Roma. In these circumstances, it is important that international and other humanitarian organisations and agencies understand the specific risks faced by minorities and do their utmost to mitigate these risks.
Participants also reported that they have already documented repeated cases of Roma not being able to receive safe evacuation passage, due to a lack of documentation and IDs, as well as cases of discrimination in the allocation of basic humanitarian assistance in some countries hosting and receiving refugees from Ukraine
The Roma NGO Coalition of Ukraine stressed the need to monitor human rights violations, establish a human rights hub to document potential war crimes against Roma and other vulnerable groups, and provide legal support to internally displaced Roma, as well as those who have moved abroad, working with the authorities of Ukraine and abroad to facilitate access to rights and services, including resolving legal status issues to facilitate their movement across borders.
Expressing appreciation for the support of the national and local authorities in Ukraine, such as the Ombudsman Office and the Parliament Committee on Human Rights, law enforcement agencies, as well as the Uzhgorod, Lutsk, and Melitopol municipalities, participants called on international humanitarian actors to prioritise structured cooperation with the network of Roma CSO human rights monitors and mediators.
The NGOs representatives called on the media, politicians and public figures to report accurately on stories relating to Roma and other minorities in Ukraine and to consult with Ukrainian and Roma CSOs and refrain from making statements that may contribute to disinformation or stereotyping of Roma, further stigmatising and victimising these minorities already at risk.
The inputs received in this consultation will be taken into account for the future work of the Council of Europe with Roma in Ukraine.