Moldova: Roma refugees from Ukraine file a complaint about discrimination

A group of Roma refugees from Ukraine who were attacked with tear gas by the security personnel of a refugee center in Chisinau applied to the prosecutor’s office and the Council for Equality with a complaint of racial discrimination. The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) will represent the refugees.

The incident took place on August 18, 2022, when the Roma were inside the FRISPA Refugee Center having dinner in the common area. Refugees say that one of the employees allowed racist insults against the Roma. There was a verbal altercation, and other security guards were called to the common area. They also verbally insulted the Roma and searched an elderly woman, accusing her of drug possession. The guards then ordered the Roma to leave the common area and return to their rooms. Several refugees did not make it back in time, and the guards fired tear gas at them. Refugees, including children and the elderly, were seriously affected by the gas, so they had to call an ambulance.

According to ERRC, Roma from Ukraine experienced discrimination and segregation once after arriving in the country.

“Moldovan local authorities placed Roma refugees in ethnically segregated shelters with limited access to basic services. There is no good reason, no good excuse for tear-gassing elderly refugees and children. Their attackers acted out of racist motivation, and we will get justice against those responsible to the full extent of the law,” said ERRC’s Jonathan Lee, adding that since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the ERRC has deployed staff to Moldova and other countries to monitor potential human rights abuses by government agencies regarding Roma refugees.

The FRISPA Refugee Center is located in an abandoned building of the Faculty of International Relations, Political Science and Public Administration in Chisinau, on Nicolae Testemițanu street. In April and May 2022, the media have already reported on poor conditions, discrimination and segregation of Roma in this and other places of refugee accommodation in Moldova. As has been established by human rights activists, Roma refugees not only face segregation there but also do not have access to clean drinking and hot water. Many Roma refugees reported that the FRISPA Center did not provide them with medical care, and the food caused food poisoning among their children.

On September 29, 2022, with the support of ERRC, a lawyer representing Roma refugees filed a motion with the prosecutor’s office to conduct a thorough investigation of these incidents and question the victims. On October 10, 2022, ERRC filed a complaint with the Council for the Prevention and Elimination of Discrimination and Guarantees of Equality against the FRISPA Refugee Center in connection with discrimination and persecution based on ethnic origin.