Coronavirus: Humanitarian flight repatriates Roma from Geneva to Romania – News Switzerland: French-speaking Switzerland



Wednesday morning, a humanitarian flight left Geneva to reach the city of Cluj-Napoca, in the northwest of Romania. On board, Roma families repatriated in emergency, representing a total of sixty-three people, as well as other Romanian citizens stranded in Switzerland because of the health crisis linked to the coronavirus. This flight was organized by the relief organization Caritas Geneva, in concert and with logistical and administrative support from the Canton and the Confederation, as well as from the Romanian consulate in Switzerland. The operation was funded by several private donors, who wish to remain anonymous.

“The situation was becoming untenable for many Roma families in Geneva,” writes Caritas-Geneva in a press release. This crisis is severely testing the most vulnerable populations, including the Roma present in Geneva, who find themselves without income and unable to find safety, the organization stresses. “It was at the request of the Roma themselves that we carried out this crazy project,” says Caritas Geneva director Dominique Froidevaux. They generally live under bridges or in not very healthy caches, and the places of emergency accommodation in Geneva, already in high demand, were not suitable to accommodate, with all the health precautions required, these families living in groups or in clan. For them, confinement could only be envisaged in their villages, in Romania. ”

In addition, these Roma found themselves completely deprived of income. “The most vulnerable live by begging, but since the streets are empty, that doesn’t work anymore,” explains Dominique Froidevaux. Others live small casual jobs, like home help, but with the confinement of the population, this source of income has also dried up. It had become very difficult for them to feed themselves. ” Some have tried to return to Romania by their own means, by land, but the closing of the borders has prevented them. Caritas initially tried to organize a road humanitarian convoy, but since it was necessary to cross several countries, this proved impossible.

Many obstacles

Organizing this repatriation was not an easy task. “There were a lot of obstacles to overcome and until the last moment we were not sure if we would succeed,” said the director of Caritas Geneva. The first difficulty was to get in touch with the approximately two hundred Roma that the organization currently knows how to live in Geneva. “We are in regular contact with them, but in the current situation, we can no longer do our usual street work.” The self-help organization therefore circulated, via mobile phones and social networks, a video in the Romani language to pass on the information. “It was the best way to reach as many people as possible. Food distributions also helped spread word of mouth. But some people did not want to take this flight, or did not believe we would get there. ”

Before leaving, the Roma returnees received baskets of food supplied by the Partage association, which will help them to survive during the two weeks of home quarantine they have to carry out in Romania. They were also informed, in their own language, of the health safety instructions. Geneva Public Transport (TPG) has organized convoys to take them to the airport. On the spot, in Cluj-Napoca, buses brought the families back to their respective villages. “We had telephone contacts to ensure that everyone had arrived home,” says Dominique Froidevaux.

Created: 26.03.2020, 16h06


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