Equinet’s statement on the impact of war in Ukraine on equality

As a member of the European Network of Equality Institutions (Equinet), the Ombudsman’s Office highlights the risks that the Russian Federation’s war in Ukraine poses to the principle of equality and the prohibition of discrimination.

When responding to cases of discrimination caused by the war, Equinet members have observed that certain groups are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, for example, women, Roma, people of African or Asian descent, LGBTIQ+ people or people with disabilities. For example, people with disabilities face accessibility problems as some refugee reception centres are not tailored to their needs. Women and children, on the other hand, are at particular risk of trafficking in human beings and face difficulties in accessing healthcare in some countries.

Differing treatment of refugees based on, for instance, their skin colour, ethnicity, (perceived) nationality or religious belief has also been observed. For example, waiting times for Roma refugees in registration centres are longer and access to these centres, transport from borders or adequate housing is limited. Discrimination can also be observed in the labour market — Ukrainian refugees are sometimes offered lower pay compared to nationals in similar positions. Ukrainian refugee families often cannot find housing where all family members could continue to live together.

Equinet stresses that equality, solidarity and human dignity must be extended to all people regardless of their ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation or disability. The organisation calls on national governments, employers, media and other responsible actors to prevent discrimination and to ensure equal treatment of all people, both now and in the future.

Ombudsman Juris Jansons echoes this call: “Discrimination cannot be tolerated – neither in times of war nor in times of peace. Everyone has the right to be safe and to live in dignity. It is our duty to do everything in our power to ensure that everyone — refugees, citizens, residents — is considered and respected.”