Racial and ethnic minorities suffering disproportionately during Coronavirus crisis, says ENAR

A new report by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) says the pandemic is “exacerbating and shining a light” on existing racism and inequalities in society.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

27 May 2020

ENAR, a pan-European network promoting racial equality, says that racial and ethnic minorities are currently suffering disproportionately across a range of “key areas” including healthcare, housing and employment.

Cases, it claims, “underline how this pandemic is exacerbating and shining a light on existing structural racism and inequalities” in the labour market, housing and institutions such as the police.

The ENAR report is backed up by The Lancet, a respected medical journal in the UK, which says that evidence is continuing to emerge that the pandemic could be disproportionately affecting people from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.


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In the UK, for example, it says that the first 11 doctors who lost their lives to COVID-19 were all from BAME communities. Following this, various analyses have been published, with one showing that of 106 COVID-19 fatalities in health workers, some two thirds (63 percent) were in BAME people.

The figure was 94 percent for doctors and 71 percent for nurses, with the average reduced with the inclusion of other health-care workers (55 percent).

Karen Taylor, Chair of the European Network Against Racism, said, “Disease affects us all and we should all have the care and support we need, leaving no one behind.”

“Governments should acknowledge the greater risks and needs of racialised groups and put measures in place to ensure they do not bear the brunt of the pandemic’s impact” Karen Taylor, Chair of ENAR

“In their responses to the pandemic, governments should acknowledge the greater risks and needs of racialised groups and put measures in place to ensure they do not bear the brunt of the pandemic’s impact.”

ENAR, based in Brussels, says it has compiled data on the impact of COVID-19 on racialised groups which “exposes how government responses are overlooking and in some cases violating” the basic rights of ethnic and racial minorities in Europe.

One “very concerning” example cited is in the Moria asylum seeker camp in Lesbos, Greece, where ENAR says 18,000 people are living in a facility built for 3,000.

“The poor living conditions make it nearly impossible for the residents of the camp to follow quarantine measures and avoid the spread of the virus,” says ENAR.

Another example, it says, involves authorities introducing “stricter” restrictions for Roma and migrant settlements than other neighbourhoods, effectively “sealing off” these neighbourhoods.

New powers granted to police in many Member States during the pandemic are “disproportionately” affecting racial and ethnic minorities, who have experienced “racial profiling and police brutality.”

“There have also been several cases of violent racially motivated attacks against Asian people. In addition, there is evidence of racist rhetoric blaming Jews, Muslims, Roma and migrants for the spread of the virus” ENAR

ENAR says there are several cases of police brutality “in the context of COVID-19” with two people from racialised groups allegedly being killed at the hands of the police in France and in Belgium.

The two people are Mohamed Gabsi, aged 33, who died on 8 April in France, and another, named only as Adil C., aged 19, who died two days later in Belgium.

Since the early days of the spread of COVID-19, people of Asian descent in particular have been victim of racist speech online and offline, being blamed for the virus and its spread in Europe, it is alleged by the NGO.

“There have also been several cases of violent racially motivated attacks against Asian people. In addition, there is evidence of racist rhetoric blaming Jews, Muslims, Roma and migrants for the spread of the virus.”

“Unacceptable” living conditions put people such as Roma and migrants in an “even more vulnerable position” during the Coronavirus outbreak “since they cannot take the necessary hygienic measures to contain the virus.”

ENAR wants a basic income for all during the ongoing Coronavirus crisis and says governments should also “stop the expulsion and detention of undocumented migrants and facilitate their access to health services.”

Taylor added, “In view of these findings, EU institutions should launch an enquiry into the impact of the pandemic and its consequences on racialised and other marginalised groups in the EU and develop responses on the basis of this.”

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