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Eastern Europe: Roma communities under threat

17-10-2002 News Release 02/42

The Roma are a fragmented people scattered across some 20 countries, mainly in Europe.

In Eastern Europe, they get by as well as they can in circumstances that have relentlessly deteriorated since the end of the Cold War. The economic crisis, the rise of nationalism and the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia have driven large numbers of them from their homes. The recent clandestine arrival of large numbers of Roma in Western Europe – in particular France and Switzerland – demonstrates the difficulty of their situation. The latest issue of Red Cross / Red Crescent , the magazine of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, publishes the results of an investigation carried out this year in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia to find out more about these vulnerable communities torn between an ancient culture and a modern world dominated by globalization and the market economy. For those who understand French, the ICRC's French-language website (page d'accueil – " Nouveautés " ) offers a text/photo/voice report in which a number of people involved in this unstable situation express their views, affording us an opportunity to think about the Roma's present concerns and the main challenges involved in dealing with those concerns. The site also provides information about the humanitarian work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in this respect, particularly efforts to help refugees and people displaced by the fighting in the former Yugoslavia. In Serbia and Montenegro the ICRC provides food and hygiene items to almost 2,000 Roma displaced from Kosovo.