Mihai Calin Bica, a campaigning and policy worker for the Roma Support Group, has written a powerful description of the impact of the disease and lockdown on Roma communities in the UK, published in the Independent on 9th May under the headline “Already vilified, the Roma are struggling in a crisis.”
Mihai sets the Roma experience of the pandemic in the context of discrimination and prejudice. In addition Roma continue to suffer the uncertainties about status resulting from Brexit.
As families face financial insecurity, a disproportionate risk of infection and reduced access to education and services, the UK’s Roma community has also been met with an increase in discriminatory attitudes.
He tells of a young victim of Corvid whose families face the “almost impossible task” of returning their bodies to their homelands. He also suggests that in some localities Roma are suffering disproportionately.
Diana Blaj from Ideea Rom Association, a Nottingham-based Roma organisation, reports that about 40 of the 400 Roma they’re working with have been infected or had symptoms.
He explains how many Roma are employed informally or through agencies and their work has just disappeared with lockdown.
Most Roma in the UK live in poor areas and the majority are renting in the private sector, from unscrupulous or rogue landlords. Even under lockdown many are threatened with eviction.
“Our own community has risen to the challenge”
Mihai tells of Roma volunteers in London, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and Crewe delivering food parcels to vulnerable families in their local areas, organising social networks and challenging discrimination.
During this time of lockdown – when all of us are vulnerable – we need to come together, increase our understanding of each other, find common ground and common decency.
We are not asking for special treatment. We want fairness.
This is a moving and comprehensive article which should be widely distributed and read.