'What if there's nowhere to hide, if you live in an overcrowded site or shanty-town, and if you don`t have access to clean water and sanitation' during the coronavirus pandemic was a question rightfully asked by Bernard Rorke, editor at the European Roma Rights Center. Addressing the Roma community in the EU, his article gives an overview on the present situation in light of new government measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, and the response from Roma rights activists in Ireland, Slovakia, and Romania, while also reminding other countries about the human right that is access to water and sanitation.
- Ireland. The majority of the Roma minority in Ireland are unable to self-isolate due to issues that have been protractedly unaddressed by local authorities, such as the accommodation crisis, forced evictions, lack of sufficient funding, and deeply rooted racial discrimination in the country.
- Slovakia. Many social workers are unable to visit settlements as they lack protective equipment, and consequently most slums do not have access to food, water, emotional support and trustworthy information. Roma are subjected to increased scapegoating, as authorities in some towns have made announcements that encourage violence, and residents call for the adoption of ‘punitive special measures’ against the Roma community. Importantly, local activists are spreading reliable information to prevent the spread of the virus in 260 Roma settlements.
- Romania. Housing rights activists from Cluj have sent an open letter to the authorities demanding emergency measures to protect the Roma community in the Pata Rât settlement.
Human rights to water and sanitation
- Fundamental Rights Agency research shows that 1/3 of their target sample lack access to tap water and 38% have no shower, toilet or bathroom in their home. Roma in Romania have similar rates of access to water as those in Buthan, Gana and Nepal.
- The Roma Civil Monitor states that Roma in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia are often denied safe water supplies and sanitation.
- In mid-March, the first ‘right-to water’ European Court of Human Rights case (Hudorovič and others v. Slovenia) concerning the Roma community in Slovenia ruled that the state failed to provide access to clean drinking water, resulting in ‘adverse consequences for health and human dignity’ of the complainants.