Slovakia’s Roma: Living on the margins

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Jarovnice, Slovakia – Smoke plumes drag across the ashen sky above the Roma slum in the eastern Slovak village of Jarovnice.

More than 5,600 Roma live in densely packed makeshift homes and shacks inside the roughly one square kilometre slum, according to the local municipality’s estimates. 

Florian Gina, mayor of Jarovnice since 2010, says that Roma face institutional barriers to obtaining a fair share of state resources, making it harder to combat the community’s poverty. 

“Even if politicians say there is no discrimination against Roma, the reality is that the discrimination is huge,” he tells Al Jazeera from his office. 

With little work in the east and pervasive discrimination in the job market, the community has a more than 97 percent unemployment rate and most residents are dependent on welfare. 

Numbering around a half-million across the country, Roma make up around 10 percent of Slovakia’s total population.

READ MORE: In Slovakia’s Roma slums, a life of poverty and segregation

In Jarovnice and many Roma communities in Slovakia, there is little to no access to potable and running water, despite the fact that water is enshrined in law as a human right by the United Nations, the European Union and the Council of Europe. 

“They face segregation, large scale unemployment and discrimination by police [in Slovakia],” says Jonathan Lee, the European Roma Rights Centre communications officer, explaining that there has also been a rise in anti-Roma hate crimes as far-right groups spread in the country. 

Words by Patrick Strickland: @P_Strickland_ 

Photos by Sorin Furcoi: @furcoisorin

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