Some European officials use virus as a cover to target Roma

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By MARIA CHENG and TEODORA BARZAKOVA Associated Press

BURGAS, Bulgaria (AP) — In Bulgaria, Roma communities were sprayed with disinfectant from crop dusters this spring as coronavirus cases surged in the country. In Slovakia, their villages were the only ones where the army conducted testing. And across Central and Eastern Europe, reports of police using excessive force against Roma spiked as officers were deployed to enforce lockdowns in their towns.

Human rights activists and experts say local officials in several countries with significant Roma populations have used the pandemic to unlawfully target the minority group, which is Europe’s largest and has faced centuries of severe discrimination. With COVID-19 cases now resurging across the continent, some experts fear the repression will return, too.

To make matters worse, activists say such discrimination often draws little opposition from other Europeans and the Roma are reluctant to speak about it, fearing repercussions.

One afternoon, Azime Ali Topchu, 48, said the police-enforced lockdown of her village in Burgas, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast, made her family “really sad.”

“It was hard. Hard. For my whole family to go…



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