As soon as the war on Ukraine was declared, a refugee crisis unfolded in Europe within days. Countries bordering Ukraine flung open their borders to Ukrainian women, children and elderlies and some nations even took measures to accommodate Ukrainian refugees inside their homes.
At the beginning of the war, there were reports of racism at the border checkpoints. Some Indian students said that they too were subjected along with Black, Chinese and other students to racism by the border guards of those nations.
There is now another casualty amid this crisis: Europe’s Roma people.
For the uninitiated the Roma people, also known as Gypsies or Romanis, are an Indo-Aryan group who originated in northern parts of India and following the invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni in the 11th century, these groups fled to parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
They are not to be confused with Romanians who originate from the Roman and Dacian peoples.
These groups did not stop there. They migrated to northern Africa, the Americas, the Balkan states and further into western Europe. The European aristocrats greeted them warmly in the 15th century but the goodwill eventually disappeared.
Also comedian Jimmy Carr’s Holocaust joke on gypsy people during a standup special created a furor with many demanding the comedian’s ‘cancellation’.
How are the Ukrainian Roma people faring amid the refugee crisis?
Poorly. A report by news agency CNN revealed that the Roma people in many camps face segregation and are even denied entry after being accused of not being Ukrainian.
Several NGOs and activists in the Czech Republic, Romania and Moldova who spoke to CNN said that Roma refugees are segregated in low quality accommodation.
Romanian Roma rights campaigner Nicu Dumitru told CNN that hostility towards Roma people are common across Europe and unlike in cases of Blacks or the LGBTQIA+, people do not even restrain themselves from discriminating against them.
The Roma people faced discrimination several times during the crisis. Here are some of those cases:
- According to the CNN report, Roma refugees complained about being denied humanitarian meals in Bucharest while they were at a help point
- In Moldova, a journalist from the Roma community switched to activism after she saw how Roma people were being treated at refugee centres in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau.
- A Czech detention centre was turned into a makeshift camp for housing Ukrainian Roma refugees. Families left that centre after finding that they were housed with criminal and dangerous individuals.
Several Roma refugees complain that their elderly people, their disabled children and other family members face problems in these places which have been turned into makeshift refugee centres.
While several Roma refugees are subjected to misinformation, authorities from several countries said that they also stop Roma refugees from entering the country so that they do not exploit benefits meant for other groups.
The fate of these Romas stuck in camps across eastern Europe remains stuck in a limbo. The Romas are also struck by arbitrary rulings.
For example, the government in Czech Republic accuses Romas of having Hungarian as well as Ukrainian citizenship and deny them entry on that basis.
The Romas were also denied entry by citing that most from the community did not have an EU entry stamp in their passport. Roma activists point out that this rule only applies to Romas and not other minorities – who are also made aware regarding steps they can take to resolve the issue.
The Czech Republic government also denied applications for temporary protection status, an EU measure.
The European Union (EU) denied that they have issued any such rule and said that Czech Republic’s rules were not in line with their laws.
(with inputs from CNN)