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Do You Speak Corona? The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma warns on increasing racism and a humanitarian crisis in the wake of COVID 19 in many countries

The crisis has made it clear that the pandemic – and the responses to it – exposes and deepens existing inequalities, on a global scale, more than other events. Many people in Germany and other countries in Europe and around the world are in a difficult situation as a result of the measures taken to contain the pandemic, but also because they have contracted COVID-19. We turned to FUEN member organization Central Council of German Sinti and Roma for an overview on the situation of Sinti and Roma in Germany.
The Central Council points out that many Sinti and Roma who are active in self-employed professions, e.g. as artists or craftsmen, were of course particularly affected by the restrictions in the economic sector, as were members of the majority society. Some immigrant Roma families are unable to support their children in homeschooling because there is a lack of space, technology and knowledge on the part of the parents. This also affects other marginalized groups and migrants in Germany. If German is not spoken and written at home, this can lead to educational disadvantages for children.
The situation in Germany is not comparable with the circumstances of many Roma in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans, especially in segregated residential areas that are cut off from basic infrastructure such as running water or adequate medical care. Already since the middle of March 2020, the Central Council pro-actively addressed in the media the great risks of increasing racism towards Roma and Sinti across Europe, as well as about the humanitarian crisis that Roma communities in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe face. One extremely dangerous practice is the forceful segregation of residential areas, by which Roma are being excluded from all medical care, and the supply of food and all other everyday necessities is being cut off.
Many mainstream newspapers and television channels in Germany reported about the specific vulnerability of Roma communities in the context of Covid-19 due to the existing structural inequalities and the increase of racism. However, even well intended articles are often accompanied online by racist comments that call for violence, repression and exclusion of Roma. The Central Council demands the media providers to fulfill their responsibilities and to monitor and moderate such online comments.
Unfortunately, it is becoming apparent that antigypsyism is becoming virulent in the Corona crisis and that the minority in some countries is acting as a scapegoat. Hate speech is spreading online on social media, as well as in particular in the commentary sections of mainstream and online media outlets. There is a lack of awareness or even ignorance and denial concerning antigypsyism by media, and social media platforms that leads to the status that there is little monitoring, intervention and sanction against antigypsyism online.
The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma has documented a number of stigmatizing and racist media articles, as well as fake news about Sinti and Roma in connection with Covid-19. In the online space, they face particular difficulties to intervene when the website is hosted on servers abroad, but even when it is hosted by a German provider, their letters of complaint might be rejected.
“While we can observe a high rate of hate speech online in connection with Covid-19, we currently do not have the capacity to realize a systematic monitoring, to intervene in all cases and to initiate complaint and prosecution processes” – says the Central Council. Therefore, for over a year, the organization advocates the establishment of a monitoring and information body for antigypsyism in Germany.
The Central Council in general works a lot to address antigypsyism in public and media discourses, and has issued a number of publications on relevant issues.

The Central Council and the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma realized a specific monitoring together with the relevant body for hate speech online in Germany, jugendschutz.net, which was issued in December 2018.

We would like to thank the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma for their contribution to this article.

During April 2020 FUEN has conducted a survey entitled Do You Speak Corona? on the situation of European minorities during the pandemic. The online questionnaire focused on the availability of information related to COVID-19 in general, healthcare information related to the outbreak, the existence of an emergency hotline operated in minority language and the availability of online education in minority language. The short report on the results is here and you can download the whole report in PDF format by clicking here. This series of case studies is the continuation of the Do You Speak Corona? project.

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