COVID-19 Roma Disproportionately Impacted and Often Exploited

March 31, 2021

Christina Ladd

The Roma people, largely displaced and already a nationless travelling people often called Gypsies, experience daily hardships of having no national identity. While many have relocated and become nationals in host countries that they can call home and I.D. card systems give them a sense of belonging and stability in their social environment, many still struggle with asylum. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit these poulations hard. A global world already in chaos now has the task of trying to account for the health and safety of these individuals in a pandemic world that is both socially and economically stricken. According to BBC Wales reporter Cemlyn Davies, Issac Blake, of The Cardiff-based Romani Cultural and Arts Company (RCAC), is working closely with the local Roma population and says that they are “disproportionately affected” as an already marginalized population, and that access to services is even more difficult for them than for the general population. They live in crowded conditions that would exacerbate viral issues in addition to having low levels of access to health care.1 Ministries receive funds for the organisational needs of implementation and protection for the successful integration of refugees. Apart from general housing and services, some regions see abuses and exploitation as in one religious organisation in Ireland.

In Ireland, the Roma have reported gross abuses under the Romanian Roma Community Association of Northern Ireland (RRCANI) where Aurel Nicola is the current Chair. BBC Northern Ireland’s Nolan Shaw, December 2018, reported that Green Party Member Claire Bailey is aware that there have been “allegations of control and and coercion happening on a few layers” including a recording of Nicola stating that he will “bring the women in front of the community and what you decide to do to them, that’s what were going to do to them. If it’s to take them out of the country with their families. . . if not they stay here. . . Because you cant live with people like this. Because they give away everything that is happening in the community. . . It is giving away everything. Everything I do the police know right away.” Aurel’s son Nicolae Nicola, the public face of RRCANI, has been accused of the  financial exploitation of government benefits going to the Roma due to that they need paperwork filed through the community organisation and often dont speak english, they need interpreters. They are being charged anywhere form £300-600 to fill out paperwork.2 The more children they have the more benefit it appears is extracted, almost as the mafia taking a percent cut of the proceeds.

The Minister for Justice in Ireland is responsible for asylum policy in and implementation in Ireland. Several organisations are responsible for delivering services and are responsible “To reduce processing times for asylum seekers by introducing a single procedure for applications”, “To maintain the integrity of and implement improvements to the protection and direct provision systems”, and “To provide protection for up to 4,000 people through the Irish Refugee Protection Programme” (IRPP).3 The Ireland Minister for Justice and Equality obtains funding for the asylum refugees. August 18, 2020 Helen McEntee issued a call for funding for 2014-2020 year provisions. Prior funding amounted to €770,000 for the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) to develop regional support organisations. Funding for Individual geographic areas is up to €110,000 euros applied for through the AMIF. McEntee states “Increased diversity presents Ireland, as a society, with opportunities to enrich our culture, expand our economy, and more generally, to share ideas and learn from each other. This funding will assist groups whose priority it is to ensure that refugees and other migrants can integrate successfully into Irish life and make a real contribution.”4 As a global community we are coming together through the UNHCR, Justices of Ministry, and a host of active groups such as Amnesty International to ensure the health, safety and, welfare of all human beings. I will be following stories of the Roma people here on The Global Agenda: Roma

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1. Davies, Cemlyn (12 August 2020). Coronavirus: Gypsy, Roma, and Travellers ‘dispraportionately’ affected. website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-53742653 accessed March 31, 2020

2. Shaw, Nolan (3 December 2018) Belfast Roma Leaders ‘intimidating and exploiting’. website: https://bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-46419101 accessed March 31, 2020

3. inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/asylum-status-eligibility

4.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Irish_Refugee_Protection_Programme

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