The concept of social justice encompasses a wide range of social issues and goes far beyond the aspect of economic redistribution. Thus, social justice includes poverty prevention, equitable education, labour market access, social inclusion and non-discrimination, intergenerational justice, and health.

In the context of multiethnic societies, debates around the concept of social justice necessarily include reflections on structural inequalities, equality of opportunities, racism, and non-discrimination. The work developed on the theme of social justice in multiethnic societies within the ECMI Equality and Inclusion cluster follows on Nancy Fraser’s approach, which contends that an adequate theory of justice must be three-dimensional, and include redistribution, recognition, and representation.



Marginality on the Margins of Europe – The Impact of COVID-19 on Roma Communities in Non-EU Countries in Eastern Europe (2020-2021)

The primary aim of this project was to map the overall impact of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on Roma communities in non-EU countries in Eastern Europe. Given the multiple vulnerabilities of Roma communities on account of their poverty, social exclusion, and pervasive racism targeting them, the project was 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?

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 assessed 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. With the start of the pandemic, an increase in hate speech and racist incidents became apparent, whereby people belonging to the Roma community were 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 were also reported by the media. The project therefore enquired 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 looked 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 was 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, Maynooth University, Ireland) coordinated all research activities related to the project, with the support of Craig Willis (ECMI Researcher). The data collection was 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)


Relevant ECMI Publications

Andreea Cârstocea, Raul Cârstocea, Craig Willis (2020), The Impact of COVID-19 on Roma Communities in Non-EU Countries in Eastern Europe. ECMI Minorities Blog.

Craig Willis (2020), Economic Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Roma Communities in Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine, ECMI Research Paper #122

Andreea Cârstocea, Raul Cârstocea (2017), The Roma in Moldova, ECMI Report #65.

Andreea Cârstocea (2013), Accountability and political representation of national minorities: a forgotten link? Evidence from Romania, ECMI Research Paper #65.

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