Statement by the Minority Ombudsman on the occasion of the International Roma Day

In addition to the Hungarian and universal values of Roma culture and the opportunities opened for the future generations, Minority Ombudsman Professor Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay pointed out on the occasion of the International Roma Day that during the coronavirus pandemic, deprived Roma families, living in difficult conditions in some regions of Hungary, face extreme challenges and need help regardless of the current emergency situation.

According to a UN decision taken thirty years ago, April 8 is the International Roma Day. In 1971, the first World Romani Congress was held in London on this day, the first major international step in the formation and shaping of Roma identity, and the universal recognition of Roma culture.

April 8, 1971 was a milestone for Roma communities around the world. Recognizing their common goals, the representatives of the various Roma ethnic groups decided at that time to cooperate continuously and more closely in the future in order to strengthen the Roma culture and their common interests in international public life. In addition, they created the symbols and anthem of the Roma nation from their common cultural treasures, as well as the Opre Roma! (Up, Gypsies!) slogan.

The World Day is also a celebration of the culture of the Hungarian Roma community. In recent decades, a new generation of Roma intellectuals has emerged, and their members have helped Hungary's development as theoretical and practical experts, artists, pastors, law enforcement professionals or manual workers. With their achievements and perseverance, in addition to their own well-being, they also created a chance to freely determine the life of their children based on their values.

In addition to these successes, we must also talk about the profound social problems that our Roma compatriots face in terms of educational segregation, social integration or labour market marginalization. It is difficult to proudly assume the Roma nationality and culture of a person who may face the adverse consequences of the same identity on a daily basis.

During the coronavirus pandemic and the emergency measures imposed as a result, in some regions of the country, Roma families living in difficult circumstances irrespective of the present situation, including many of them living in segregated settlements, are facing extreme nutritional, hygiene, health and educational challenges. In addition to the continuous and targeted actions of state and municipal institutions entitled and obliged to act in times of emergency, civil initiatives of individuals and groups, donations from church communities and the involvement of local Roma minority self-governments can only achieve their real aims with appropriate financial background, reasonable and professional organization and the responsible provision of information.

That is why it is important on this day to pay particular attention to the “everyday heroes” who set a good and inspiring example, the ones who selflessly help and support those in need not only now, during the emergency, but also after it. Their extraordinary work, determination and perseverance can give hope and guidance to those who do not yet see how to break out of their disadvantaged situation.