European rights chief warns Roma, travellers’ at high risk in pandemic

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Europe’s top human rights official on Tuesday called on governments to ensure that Roma and people travelling can access health care and clean water during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, noted that Roma people living in substandard housing and segregated settlements across Europe were among those most vulnerable to the pandemic.

“In many places in Europe, Roma still lack access to clean water and sanitation. This makes it very difficult to apply crucial hygiene measures such as regular hand washing,” Mijatovic said.

The commissioner noted that Roma settlements in France who lost access to electricity and water were because site owners left due to lockdown rules.

She, however, urged that all evictions should be stopped for the duration of the crisis.

“Roma had also been “scapegoated and targeted by hate speech,” Mijatovic said.

She noted that in Bulgaria, politicians had called for special measures against Roma; local authorities had set up police checkpoints around settlements to enforce quarantine measures.

“They even put up a fence around a particular location where the people from Roma settled to control movements.

“While action to ensure adherence to confinement rules can be justified in the present circumstances, these cannot be selectively applied to people, neither fully nor partially, on the basis of ethnicity,” Mijatovic said.


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