Equal Opportunities for Roma Ukrainian Refugees

October 31, 2022

Moldova lies on Ukraine’s western border and has welcomed the highest number of Ukrainian refugees per capita.

At CWS, when we say “refugees welcome” and advocate for the right to seek a safe home, we are talking about all refugees. Throughout our programs, our focus has always been to ensure inclusivity and provide a helping hand to our most vulnerable neighbors. This holds true in our programs for Ukrainian refugees in Moldova, where communities have generously opened up their doors to Ukrainian refugees. To ensure the doors are open for everyone, we are launching a new program that provides support to refugees who are also members of one of the most marginalized groups in Europe, the Roma people.

The Roma people are an ethnic minority who have experienced severe discrimination in Europe for centuries. Due to highly negative misconceptions and stereotypes, mistreatment by governments and a widespread lack of identification documents, Roma families often live in a harsh cycle of poverty and hardship. At CWS, we have been working against this cycle through our programs for Roma people in the Balkans. Now, we are applying our knowledge and expertise from these programs to support Roma Ukrainian refugees in Moldova. The new program will be run in partnership with the local coalition Voice of the Roma whose mission is, “to support the Roma minority in Moldova by helping them to access needed services, campaigning and advocating for the protection of Roma rights, and fighting against anti-Roma discrimination.”

Our humanitarian response team leader in Moldova, Andrew Blakely, says that the main challenge this program will tackle is connecting Roma Ukrainian refugees to local resources. This will be done by engaging cultural mediators, who are predominantly Roma women and speak Romanian (the primary language in Moldova), Russian and the Romani language. Andrew explained that “a lot of resources already exist so there isn’t necessarily a need to create new resources. The need is to connect Roma people to these resources.” He added, “we want to have advocates in place who can help Roma Ukrainian refugees access the same services as other Ukrainians.”

These mediators will be located in Roma Refugee Accommodation Centers, border crossings and mobile units, where they can be ready to connect Roma refugees to resources including education, health, legal services, cash assistance and housing. They will also be available as advocates who Roma people can reach out to if they experience discrimination in their new communities. Andrew stated that “the short-term goal of the program is to grant people access to what they currently need. The long-term goal is to decrease the friction that exists between Roma people and their ability to access resources.”

Through this program, we are aiming to reach at least 2,000 Ukrainian Roma refugees in the next year. While the Roma people may be accustomed to discrimination and closed doors, we are actively working to open up doors and connect the Roma to more opportunities.

You can support our programs in Moldova by donating to our Ukraine Crisis Response Fund here. We are tremendously grateful to The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and all of the contributors to the CWS Ukraine Emergency Appeal for their generous support of this work.