Situation of Roma in Roania, including refugees from Ukraine

The Roma living beside us: How we can best acknowledge and accept them




Article published on the website


Roma people continue to suffer discrimination and prejudice perpetuated in Moldovan society. Ethnic groups are protected under national legislation from racially motivated crimes, including the Roma community, who are turning increasingly to the police and judiciary for justice.


In order to change negative attitudes that surround Roma people and to improve their integration into Moldovan society, human rights activists have suggested that the authorities involve them more often in joint cultural activities and discussions with other ethnic groups and national representatives.


Manifestations of racism towards Roma people which are most frequent in Moldovan society stem from perceptions and stereotypes that portray them as an inferior nation and aliens in our country, as well as calling them thieves, deceitful or uneducated etc.


Earlier this year, the police initiated a criminal action for a racially motivated crime after two people assaulted a Roma man travelling on public transport and stole valuable items worth 13,000 lei. The suspects were detained – the case is currently pending in court.


Another incident occurred last year when a Roma man complained to the police that he had been beaten up by several people in his own home while having sex with his partner. The police prepared three reports, treating the incident as a hate crime motivated by racial prejudice. The attackers were each fined 900 lei under the National Criminal Code. According to the police, eight cases of racially motivated crimes were reported last year, with a further seven so far in 2024.


Segregation in refugee centres


Following Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine in 2022, CSOs and lawyers reported repeated violations of the rights of Ukrainian Roma who had fled the war to seek refuge in our country. Olga Bytke, Project Coordinator at the Roma Women’s Platform “Romni”, told us about a Roma mother and her children who had faced discrimination while trying to claim asylum in a refugee centre. After several unsuccessful attempts, the woman was forced to turn to civil society representatives for help. Assistance from State authorities was sought which resulted in her problem being resolved.


“A study of Roma history and its culture by other ethnic groups, as well as their frequent and active involvement in joint events as mentioned earlier, could change perceptions of Roma people and reduce the level of indifference and hatred shown towards them”, said Olga Bytke. Lawyer Violetta Andriutse confirmed that there had been cases of discrimination against Ukrainian Roma. Although now resolved, one is left with the impression that State institutions struggle to deal with problems of this kind.


According to the 2014 census, 13,900 Roma live in our country officially, although the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in its report on the Republic of Moldova estimates the number to be over 107,000. The ECRI attributes this numerical discrepancy to the fact that Roma are reluctant to identify themselves as such for fear of being stigmatised. At the same time, ECRI data show that only 12% of Moldovans regard Roma people as neighbours, colleagues or friends and the stigma is continuing.


The Equality Council regularly measures social distance towards certain social groups, including Roma. Research on the public’s views on equality issues in Moldova has revealed an improvement in the perceptions and attitudes of the majority of the population towards Roma people.


In April this year, the Roma Women’s Platform at the Centre for Policies and Reforms submitted a national report to the 112th Session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (an alternative document to the one provided by the State authorities).


The report highlighted the challenges faced by the ethnic Roma community in terms of prejudice, violence, discrimination and segregation which have increased with the growing number of Roma refugees coming into the country. At a previous session held in 2017, the UN Committee recommended that Moldova should make efforts to strengthen the capacity of professionals working with the Roma community to prevent and combat ethnic discrimination.


Penalties for racial hatred


The National Criminal Code punishes violations of human rights fuelled by fascist propaganda, racism, xenophobia and Holocaust denial. Inciting racially motivated acts is punishable by a fine of up to 30,000 lei, or 180-240 hours’ community service, or one to three years of imprisonment.


Natalya Muntyanu





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