The primary aim of this project is to map the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Roma communities in non-EU countries in Eastern Europe. To date, no such data is available, although there are reasons to suspect this minority group might be particularly vulnerable both to COVID-19 and to the effects of the measures implemented to contain it. Given the double vulnerability of Roma communities on account of their poverty and pervasive racism targeting them, the project is driven by two main research questions:

1) To what extent are the Roma communities more vulnerable to COVID-19 because of poverty and poor living conditions, and what could be done to mitigate such vulnerabilities?

Existing reports outlining the situation of Roma communities in Eastern Europe emphasise the generally extremely poor living conditions and lack of access to basic services of this ethnic group, often including reduced access to healthcare, lack of health insurance, and a higher prevalence of pre-existing health conditions compared to the general population. Starting from this premise, the project will assess the impact of the measures put in place to contain the pandemic by focusing on several areas of interest: (a) how the pandemic impacted on their ability to access healthcare services; (b) how Roma communities coped with lockdown situations given their housing situation; (c) how social distancing and lockdown measures have impacted on the ability of Roma children to access education; (d) how these measures impacted on the ability of Roma people to earn a living. In addition, the project will focus on (e) the impact of the pandemic on Roma women, which are particularly at risk of poverty and domestic abuse in these circumstances.

2) Have there been instances of racist incidents and hate speech targeting Roma communities in the context of the ongoing pandemic, including from the authorities responsible for enforcing the social distancing measures? What has been the response of local and national authorities to such incidents? 

Even before the breakout of the pandemic there was ample evidence of online hate speech against Roma communities in all countries covered by this study. In addition, racially motivated incidents and cases of police brutality were also frequently reported by civil society organisations. In recent months there appears to be an increase in hate speech and racist incidents, whereby people belonging to the Roma community are blamed for not complying with social distancing measures, and therefore for being the main ethnic group responsible for spreading the virus. Cases of disproportionate use of force by the police and of its sealing off entire Roma communities have also been reported by the media. This project will therefore enquire into instances of hate speech, racist incidents and police brutality directed against the Roma communities in the context of the pandemic. An additional line of enquiry will look into whether the countries covered by this research have put in place measures for aiding such vulnerable groups, and if so what kinds of needs these policies are designed to meet.

The project is funded by the University of Leicester’s QR Global Challenges Research Fund (Research England) and developed in partnership with the European Centre for Minority Issues. Data for the project will be collected from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

Andreea Cârstocea (ECMI Senior researcher), and Raul Cârstocea (Lecturer, University of Leicester) will coordinate all research activities related to the project, with the support of Craig Willis (ECMI Researcher). The data collection will be carried out with the support of the following:

  1. Ram Hadroj, Vish këpucët e mia – Walk in my shoes (Albania)
  2. Indira Bajramović and Amra Čaškić, Bolja Budućnost Tuzla (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  3. Ion Duminică, Asociaţia Porojan (Moldova)
  4. Samir Jaha and Miloš Knežević, NVO Mladi Romi (Montenegro)
  5. Suad Skenderi, Romalitico Roma Policy Analyses (North Macedonia)
  6. Jasmina Miković and Milijana Trifkovic, Child Rights Centre (Serbia)
  7. Nataliia Mekahal, Olha Sribniak, Mykhailo Drapak, ECMI Ukraine Programme (Ukraine)

For any questions please write to ECMI Coordinator of the Project Dr Andreea Carstocea.


Willis, C. (2020). 'Economic Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Roma Communities in Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine'. ECMI Working Paper #122. Flensburg, Germany: European Centre for Minority Issues. 

Cârstocea, A., Cârstocea, R. & Willis, C. (2020). The Impact of COVID-19 on Roma Communities in Non-EU Countries in Eastern Europe. ECMI Minorities Blog. 

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