Already plagued by poverty, precarious jobs and discrimination, Roma families are unfairly targeted by restrictions, NGOs say. (…) The pandemic has hit Bulgaria’s Roma particularly hard. When case counts started spiking in late March and early April, authorities moved quickly to institute sweeping lockdowns in Roma neighborhoods. In Fakulteta, residents were barred from leaving the neighborhood, with military police barring the exits. Roma neighborhoods, most of which are technically illegal settlements, are only marginally connected to local infrastructure. Even the large neighborhoods, like Fakulteta, lack essential businesses like supermarkets and pharmacies. Under lockdown, residents who would otherwise travel to nearby neighborhoods to stock up on essentials were stuck with the scant supplies of their corner stores and whatever produce local merchants could find. The strict restrictions exacerbated already glaring disparities between Bulgaria’s Roma and non-Roma populations: Some 74 percent of Roma families in Bulgaria, like Alexandrova’s, already live below the poverty line.
“Families we work with, who previously were poor but had enough to eat, were reporting they can’t feed their children,” said Sarah Perrine, the director of the Trust for Social Achievement, an NGO that works with Roma families in Bulgaria. “They were on the brink of starvation.” At the time, authorities claimed these measures were necessary due to a higher concentration of positive coronavirus cases in Roma neighborhoods. However, Roma rights advocates say that there was no evidence of higher case counts and claim Roma were unfairly targeted because of long-held biases against the community. This problem isn’t specific to Bulgaria: Between March and June, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERCC) identified 12 countries across Europe in which Roma communities faced movement restrictions or disproportionate impacts from emergency measures. “[It didn’t matter] if it was in Italy, Slovakia, or Bulgaria — Roma faced different, and often harsher, emergency measures than the majority population,” said Jonathan Lee, advocacy and communications manager at ERCC.

via politico: Coronavirus pushes Bulgaria’s Roma further into the shadows

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