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Europe's Roma people 'left behind' during coronavirus pandemic

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By Isabel da Silva
Europe's Roma people 'left behind' during coronavirus pandemic
Copyright  VISAR KRYEZIU/AP2011

Roma people are Europe’s largest ethnic minority but many of them are subjected to discrimination and social exclusion.

There are 12 million in Europe and around half that within the European Union.

Campaigners claim the continent's Roma communities have been "left behind" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now they are calling for specific targets and measures in the EU's next seven-year budget to help address the problem. 

"We do not want to see anymore Roma not having access to water, to basic services, food, medicines because we actually saw during the pandemic that Roma were those actually left behind," said Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, director of the European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network. 

The last Roma Integration Report from the European Commission painted a stark picture of the problem.

The European Commission is set to release a new Roma strategy in October, but there are no plans to make it a binding directive.

"The strategy will better reflect the diversity among Roma, including by paying more attention to fighting multiple discrimination of Roma women, youth, LGTBI people, mobile citizens, migrants or stateless Roma," said Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality.

Romeo Franz, an MEP of Romani descent, says it is not enough. He has submitted his own proposal urging Brussels to create binding rules and a supervising mechanism.

"We must fight against anti-gypsyism in the parliament, too," said the German MEP. "When you do not fight anti-gypsyism, then you have no chance to implement strategies for inclusion for people with a Romani background."

He says that in the past Roma people were not included in the solutions, and the approach was a paternalistic one.

On Thursday, MEPs are set to debate the issue of Roma inclusion.