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International Roma Day – 8 April 2020
UN expert urges political action to promote equality and non-discrimination during the COVID-19 crisis


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GENEVA (8 April 2020) – The UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, urges governments to redouble efforts for the protection of human rights and the promotion of equality and non-discrimination for all, including Roma minorities, in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On this International Roma Day, 8 April is not just about celebrating the many contributions of Roma, Sinti and Travellers in European countries, and elsewhere, but also provides an opportunity to reflect on the areas of life where Roma are too often marginalised or stigmatised.

The treatment of Roma, Sinti and Travellers minorities remains a major human rights issue particularly where their vulnerability is compounded by continued obstacles in accessing public services such as access to testing for the coronavirus virus, basic health care and sanitation, including the availability of public health information in their own languages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite efforts from many governments in Europe and elsewhere to more fully implement the human rights of Roma minorities in areas such as health, housing, education and employment, Roma minorities continue to face discrimination, poverty and social exclusion.

Of particular concern in recent months is the alarming rise of hate speech and scapegoating of the Roma. Right-wing extremist and xenophobic groups have been targeting and blaming Roma and other minorities for spreading the COVID virus or accusing them of not respecting public authorities’ protection measures.

This however provides another indication why International Roma Day signals we need to redouble efforts for the protection of human rights and the promotion of equality and non-discrimination for all, including Roma minorities.”

Note to Editors: International Roma Day, a day dedicated to celebrating Romani culture and raising awareness of the issues facing Romani people, was declared in 1990 in Poland during the fourth World Romani Congress.

ENDS

Mr. Fernand de Varennes was appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2017. He is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council, to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, among other things.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities

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