ADC “Memorial” at the OSCE consultation meeting on the situation of Roma communities

On May 18, 2016 OSCE held a consultation meeting in Tbilisi on “The situation of Roma and related groups in the South Caucasus and Central Asia Regions”.

Experts of ADC “Memorial” first spoke about the necessity of such a meeting more than a decade ago when they worked on the human rights report “Roma in Russia: at the crossroads of different types of discrimination” (2004) and studied the situation of migrating Romani communities in the north-western part of Russia. Back then the experts of ADC “Memorial” concluded that many of the problems of Roma communities have deep roots in the common Soviet past of the now independent states and a regional approach is required to deal with these problems.

For many years ADC “Memorial” raised the problems of the Roma groups, which had migrated to Russia, be it the Hungarian-speaking Roma from Transcarpathian region of the Ukraine or Mugati (Lyuli) communities from Tadzhikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Roma people face many of the “usual” problems back in their countries, which are common for Roma minorities (problems with having proper identification documents, access to medical care and social welfare, problems with housing and registration, extreme poverty), but discrimination against migrating communities takes on other specific forms as well. Even serious crimes against Roma people (such as violent attacks or murders motivated by hatred) are not being investigated in proper way, while police and investigator refer to the absence of proper identification documents for both the victims and their relatives, claiming that investigative activities are difficult in this context. Judicial authorities are also often prejudiced against Roma people. Roma people involved in labor migration also face numerous problems and risks, such as corruption during issuing of documents, arbitrary actions of police officers, being deceived by employers or becoming targets of violence coming from nationalist groups. Lack of proper identification documents and higher risk of lacking documents proving their nationality often lead to incarceration of Roma people in the Russian centers for detention of foreign nationals and people without citizenship, where they risk being held for years.

ADC “Memorial” believes that the problems of Roma people in the post-Soviet region should become an important part of the regional agenda for various international organizations, including the UNO, OSCE and others, as well as the newly formed international associations, such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), or the countries signing association agreements with the European Union. Different instruments and mechanisms, which exist within the framework of these organizations, should be effectively used for the protection of the rights of members of the Roma communities, which remain one of the most vulnerable groups on the territory of the former USSR.