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Understanding the Romanian Diaspora: Diaspora mobilisation during COVID-19

Article by Andra-Lucia Martinescu & Alina Balațchi-Lupascu

October 8, 2020

Understanding the Romanian Diaspora: Diaspora mobilisation during COVID-19

The incipient phase – A crisis unfolding

‘I call on Romanians in the diaspora (…) – my beloved, do not come home for the holidays this year’. The appeal was launched by Romania’s President, Klaus Iohannis, at the beginning of April in the midst of a rapidly escalating pandemic.[1] Since March 16th, the country was under a state of emergency, with the Army drafted in to run overwhelmed and severely mismanaged public hospitals. One such facility and the epicentre of an outbreak in the northern part of Romania was Suceava hospital, which as of March 31st accounted for more than 25 per cent of Romania’s infections, prompting a strict regional quarantine.[2] The disproportionate rate of infections amongst medical personnel was particularly alarming. Years of mismanagement, political appointments, endemic corruption, lack of accountability and poor hygiene standards to name but a few, compounded the systemic failure to tackle the crisis.[3] The forbidding ‘landscape’ is reminiscent of a warzone as one army doctor described it on his social media account.[4] Rewind to October 2019.


The same hospital and its leadership were subject to much praise for their modernised infrastructure, a flagship accomplishment that could be used in political campaigning. Only a few months before, the managers were awarded honours for their supposed achievements, a ‘political décor’ that was nullified as soon as it became clear how flagrant mismanagement had exacerbated the crisis. In terms of accountability, this was about it, unless prosecutors succeed in indicting those responsible, including the chain of (political and administrative) command that enabled the protracted incompetence and loss of lives.[5] The Suceava incident was one of the myriad cases flaring across the country and prompting public outrage: from shortages of healthcare personnel against the backdrop of a continuous brain drain, to the lack of protective equipment and to the precarious institutional responses, lack of transparency and inadequate preparedness. Given the dire state of the healthcare system, its workforce deficit, unqualified management teams, lack of clear protocols, and depleted reserves of (protective) equipment, strict lockdown measures had an early onset as well as tighter enforcement (see graph/times series below on government responses), with increased powers for the police, gendarmerie and the army in some cases.[6] The deep-seated mistrust in institutions when paired with poor access to information, or as little as was available, also meant that certain segments of the public were initially less inclined to observe social distancing and isolation measures.


To return or not to return – The impact on the Diaspora

In such trying times, narratives of accountability had shifted more and more onto the people, often vulnerable communities, or those returning home from abroad faced with a sudden lack of income after sector closures. Despite the government’s appeal urging Romanians abroad not to return, for a great many this was simply not an option. Their repatriation polarised public discourse, with some politicians even vilifying the diaspora for circumventing the quarantine, spreading the virus and for burdening an embattled healthcare system (without contributing towards it).[7] Civil unrest started surfacing in already marginalised communities, both rural and urban, upon the return of those scraping for a livelihood in Western Europe. A great many were Roma.


Others that found themselves compelled to return home did so because of economic uncertainty. Working on temporary contracts, zero-hour contracts (as is the case in the UK) or no contract at all, they were precariously consigned to the fringes of state protection, without the safety nets afforded to a long-term resident workforce.[8] Even so, closures across Europe, plummeted entire sectors, particularly affecting construction (see Graph 1, below) and hospitality which in turn depended on migrant labour, seasonal or otherwise (see Graph 2, below, for employment levels in the UK). The incremental or sudden lockdowns across the continent severed the economic lifeline for many Romanians living, working and studying abroad, rendering them vulnerable and in numerous cases unable to subsist. For instance, caregivers were stranded across Europe, from Austria to Italy, in demanding, round the clock jobs tending to the elderly, often facing high risk of exposure, but with poor contractual or legal provisions to ensure their rights and safety.[9] In such cases, the option to return was even more limited.


Graph 1 – Shows a significant drop in employment levels in the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2020 (Source: Office for National Statistics, UK)



Graph 2 – UK Distribution of workforce by nationality in the construction sector


If up until recently repatriation has been the state’s (Romania) preferred long-term strategy for engaging with its diaspora, in the midst of the pandemic perceptions seem to have drastically shifted.[10] Improper institutional assistance and miscommunication regarding the quarantine spurred vitriolic attacks, stigmatising those returning from abroad.[11] The political momentum to act compassionately and in an informed manner so as to prevent divisive narratives from discouraging a unified response was irretrievably lost; in fact, such a crisis could have provided an opportunity to consolidate institutional and political commitments to what has become, through civic mobilisation and financial contributions (remittance flows), a strategic constituency.[12]


Across Romania, policing capabilities were deployed to run daily checks on individuals entering the country and encouraged to apply hefty fines. To illustrate some of the prohibiting measures, Graph 3 (below) offers a comparative perspective on coronavirus fines and the average salary per country.



Graph 3 – Selected countries’ coronavirus fines in euros


A lack of transparency in communication and official reporting combined with improper data gathering practices all added to the general sense of confusion, creating a breeding ground for enmity and targeted scapegoating. There are different versions and official takes on how many Romanians actually returned and from where.[13] Hence, an independent assessment of monitoring practices and how these were being enforced by the different agencies became tenuous at best. Instances of people trying to elude quarantine upon crossing the border did occur but even so, the reporting of such cases often tended to overshadow compliance amongst the general cohort of returnees.[14] In effect, the dehumanising aspects of both discourse and practice indicate a lasting ambivalence in Romania’s institutional reaction to the unravelling crisis.


The time series below, comparatively assesses the number and strictness of government policies in response to the pandemic, for both Romania and the UK (neither to be considered as appropriate or effective).[15] The selected timeline shows the variable adoption of emergency legislation, as well as fluctuations in restrictions (adoption and easing) between March and September 2020, across a variety of government measures/policies such as travel bans, school, retail and other sector closures, access to public transport, fiscal & financial policies etc.).


Graph 4 – COVID-19: Government Response Stringency Index 


Counter to this dynamic of repatriation, fears of disruption in food supply chains prompted bilateral decisions to allow passage for seasonal agricultural workers amid general border closures.[16] However, concerns over safety were dispelled by viral images of workers packed in buses or flocking Romanian airports en route to farms in Germany, the UK and other countries.[17] It was not long until hotbeds of infection emerged as a result of precarious working and living conditions in processing facilities and farms, with most of them cramped in shared rooms and with poor access to protective equipment. The plight of seasonal workers is not new. On the contrary, time and time again snippets of the context with which they were confronted made the headlines, only to subside under nominal reassurances that tighter controls would be enforced by authorities at home and abroad. In Germany for instance, no legislation is yet in place to ensure much needed reforms in the meat-processing industry and agricultural sectors, where working conditions have been exposed under media scrutiny.[18]


During the pandemic a chain of opportunism was further exacerbated, with subcontracted recruitment agents largely benefitting from the crisis but with little or no regard for the workers’ safety, livelihoods or well-being. As a consequence, a great many workers suffered under extreme duress, confined to the same shared spaces following a spike in infections and imposed quarantine. Although the preference for an overseas (seasonal) workforce continues unabated, more substantive institutional responses addressing such vulnerabilities are yet to materialise. In the UK for instance, as a study shows various initiatives to recruit domestic workers into the agricultural sector seem to have had limited success, ‘with only 0.2% of those expressing an interest ending up taking the jobs.’[19] On the backdrop of Brexit and caught between divisive political narratives the fate of the EU migrant workforce becomes even more uncertain. The question remains: Who then purports to represent these communities’ interests in the face of multiple, impending crises, both at home and abroad?


A view from within – Diaspora mobilisation

As our previous policy briefs show, diaspora associations and NGOs are placed at the interface between institutional responses and often vulnerable communities. The COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges not only to institutions and their capacity to effectively manage a global crisis with multiple facets (healthcare provision, financial, social etc.) but also tested the organisational capabilities of civic and community (diaspora) associations that often acted as first responders in cases of social and economic upheaval. In the UK the issues compounded by the pandemic reflected more general socio-economic trends: rising unemployment, sharp decline in revenue or household income, housing problems, increasing reports of domestic violence etc. Nevertheless, the structural uncertainties facing more vulnerable segments of the (Romanian) diaspora community were exacerbated by the lack of access to social/employment benefits, language barriers, employment conditions and in a number of extreme cases, work exploitation. Gauging the preparedness and response effectiveness in addressing such multifaceted issues proves challenging especially with incomplete statistical data. However, a series of focus groups we recently conducted with diaspora organisations and volunteer networks in the UK that mobilised in support of vulnerable groups revealed the impact upon Romanian communities in different regions, as well as the challenges facing the diaspora associative ecosystem which saw most organisations acting with limited resources and outreach capabilities.[20] A revealing aspect of such extended interviews has been the outcome of interactions with both UK and homeland institutions in forging solutions to the crisis, and the levels of support received.


Furthermore, an online session we conducted with both Romanian institutions and diaspora associations across three host countries representative of the Romanian diaspora, enabled us to identify and categorise perceptions of risks and vulnerabilities during COVID-19 and to forge pathways towards a more integrated transnational approach to cooperation – concerted action as an effective response. The project is still in its infancy and results are yet to show, but its long-term outlook and purposeful exchange are a promising start. In effect, embedded participation permitted a more granular appraisal of underlying issues facing the diasporic ecosystem, with its architectures of cooperation and communication, as well as trust-building between Romanian communities abroad and (homeland) institutions. If anything, the pandemic re-actualised the necessity for new forms of legitimacy in the rapport between institutions and the (Romanian) diaspora, based on palpable results and contributions towards the community as indicators of representativity. This is not to say that opportunistic dynamics did not occur. On the contrary, along with recurring sets of problems affecting the livelihoods of Romanians abroad, the pandemic equally exacerbated exploitative tendencies, from organisations seeking to benefit from the precarious circumstances of those rendered vulnerable, often by syphoning public money to deliver services for which they are unprepared or unqualified, to criminal networks engaging in human trafficking and modern-day slavery.


In the UK, drawing upon the grassroots experience of diaspora organisations and local charities (with groups at risk), immediate destitution (involving homelessness) was one of, if not the main issue disproportionately affecting Romanian communities. Amid the general lockdown and ensuing emergency legislation, the British government made provisions against evictions as well as for housing the homeless in temporary hostels or hotels[21]. However, with businesses shutting down, and millions losing their jobs, a new wave of homelessness plagued the country, particularly affecting those working in the hospitality industry, on zero-hour contracts or no contract at all. In many cases, and with no tenancy agreements, those subletting from private landlords were not legally covered by the government’s temporary ban against evictions. Moreover, they were equally unable to access any of the benefit schemes set in place by the British government. Overcrowded hostels attest to the extent of the crisis, with many placed on waiting lists and hence, deprived of shelter. Once in temporary accommodation, (some hostels catering for East-Europeans, depending on the region), tensions may still escalate within a shared environment and with limited capacity for a case by case provision of social assistance. Particularly striking was a caseworker’s testimonial about the many difficulties encountered. Families had to share communal spaces with those plagued by addictions and prone to violent behaviour; consequently, it has been very hard to interfere in family dynamics, and cases of domestic violence. Sudden financial uncertainties acted as triggers for violence and in such circumstances, it was extremely difficult to communicate, in absence of sustained psychological counselling that may (or may not) have alleviated a violent escalation. The multifaceted assistance required in such situations (legal, social, employment related, psychological) surpassed the limited resources and logistical capacity available for temporary housing. Moreover, charities and associations themselves faced a shortage of personnel due to reductions in operational costs, although volunteer networks, both established and ad-hoc, did respond to some of the mounting needs (mobile food banks, donations etc.).


Such vulnerabilities are intricately related. Further testimonials attest to the difficulties in applying for benefits, in absence of a contractual blanket, which left many unable to self-sustain. Furlough schemes for those without a legal basis or on zero-hour contracts were extremely difficult to access, if not impossible.[22] In such instances, dependency on donations, raising the funds within the community for otherwise costly repatriation flights (though flight operators made some exceptions for extreme cases) remained the only option. Under pressure and facing myriad uncertainties, many receiving assistance from associations in applying for benefits did not properly understand the nature and conditionalities attached to social aid schemes (for instance, actively looking for a job). The same lack of understanding regarding work rights coupled with opportunistic and predatory practices paved the way towards protracted exploitation. As testimonials indicate, because of the pandemic the charities’ outreach has been limited hence the artificial drop in labour abuse reporting. However, the extent of modern slavery and its impact upon Romanian and East European communities by and large are yet to show.


In the provision of sustained humanitarian aid, diaspora associations, charities and volunteer networks in UK and across Europe did mobilise promptly and displayed more willingness to cooperate in an environment otherwise guided by mistrust. However, a lack of direction and capacity in terms of harmonising or even observing basic procedures for screening and investigating social cases or applications led to a general sense of confusion and at times, conflict, no matter how well intentioned the volunteers may have been. Moreover, the auditing of cashflows from donations was extremely poor or absent altogether, eroding the legitimacy of those acting in support of vulnerable groups. Although experiences vary, most diaspora associations whom we interviewed identified the lack of coordination as a serious vulnerability. This invariably widened the gap between community needs and available services, which often led to a duplication of efforts instead of a coordinated response. In a set of more benign consequences, but with serious implications, was and continues to be the backlog in the processing of (identity) documents by homeland authorities.


In an unfortunate series of events, the Romanian Consulate in London not only closed its doors to the public as dictated by the COVID restrictions, but also decided not to reopen its long-standing offices (planning to move operations to a new address). A temporary office running from the premises of the Romanian Institute came as a weak and insufficient compensatory move for the general public, given that the waiting time for rescheduled appointments exceeded four months. This particularly affects applications for Settlement Schemes in the advent of Brexit, with a valid form of ID and NINO (National Insurance Number) pivotal for a successful application. Since 2007 more than 1.2 million Romanians have registered for a NINO, even with the odd missing percentage of those having chosen to leave the UK in the meantime (see Graph 5, below). However, there is still a large number of Romanian nationals bound to require identity papers at any given time and with the HMRC having suspended the issue of NINOs,[23] the most vulnerable segment of the community was left stranded with no support from any authority.


Graph 5 – National Insurance numbers allocated to adult Romanians


To complicate matters further, the backlog in processing applications (for identity documents) also affects the ability to vote in the next parliamentary elections (set for December 2020), adding to a general sense of uncertainty and frustration shared by many Romanians abroad.[24]


A lack of transparency whether it concerned the handling of budgets, communication or delivery of services has long been a symptom of unstandardised organisational practices and operational modes. Most diaspora associations across Europe and in the UK do not have procedures in place for an effective crisis management, which leads to disparate initiatives with low impact when it comes to addressing the grievances of the disenfranchised. As our analysis shows, without targeted institutional support and funding aimed at bolstering the organisational capacity of diaspora associations, the rift will continue to widen.[25] It is not necessarily a matter of resource availability (i.e. funding) but rather the capability of accessing those resources, through projects tailored to community needs, both in countries of residence and the homeland. Moreover, as one testimonial aptly states, ‘there is a persistent lack of cohesion and will to build real communities rather than islands of self-praise and self-worth, a dynamic that can and has been easily manipulated depending on the political context (…) Moreover, most Romanian communities in the UK are siloed and do not integrate (or seek to integrate) with existing communities, thus depriving themselves of existing help, when needed’.


Liaison with institutions in response to the crisis – Forging a common path

With regard to institutional responses, most associations reported an efficient interaction, rapport and communication with UK institutions and local organisations / charities, due to a more proactive stance.[26] Factors such as availability, transparency in the management of public relations, prompt dissemination of relevant information (in Romanian which improved accessibility), as well as a results-oriented outlook, enabled a swifter mobilisation across a variety of topics: work rights and cases of exploitation, social assistance, provision of aid, and in some cases repatriation. Nevertheless, given the sizeable demography and geographic dispersion of Romanian communities across the UK, there is a persistent need for a more granular institutional appraisal of the Romanian diaspora, for better tailored policy responses.[27]


On the other hand, homeland institutional responses occurred with variable degrees of support, disproportionately dependent on the nature of already formed (personal/political) interrelations. The weak or inconsistent liaison between institutions and Romanian communities abroad attests to a lack of coordination, which similarly affects the diaspora associative environment (how Romanians abroad associate and cooperate). For years on end, practices of patronage, with conferred support dependent on political loyalties (politicisation) not only eroded associative dynamics abroad but also institutional continuity at home. Nevertheless, some positive developments can be observed in the distribution of funding from Romanian institutions for diaspora-related projects, with significantly less tolerance for political favouritism and more proactive engagement with diaspora communities. To some extent, this helped diversify the portfolio of projects (applications) from diaspora associations, particularly civic ones, usually less inclined to apply for state funding because of bureaucratic and political hurdles. Although this indicates a positive trend it is simply not enough. The issue at stake is the institutions’ capacity to sustain continuity in both policy and practice – continuity that withstands political change. Gradually building a competent administrative apparatus through substantive reforms could be a stepping-stone in shedding old practices.


Diaspora associations involved in providing aid or counselling also reported disjointed communication or even lack of, especially when it came to delivering real-time information from the field. Apparently, there was low institutional appetite for an evidence-based appraisal, with almost no public authority (from Romania) pre-emptively offering support or asking to be informed/briefed on the situation of vulnerable groups stranded abroad and facing immediate destitution. Nevertheless, and depending on the caseload most associations reported that the Romanian Consulate in London generally responded to requests for assistance. Another negative facet in the interaction with home country institutions, was a perceived sense of inadequacy stemming from diaspora MPs, those who purport to represent the interests of Romanian communities abroad in the Parliament. In the UK, diaspora organisations described a lack of interest and engagement during the pandemic, with almost no MP asking to be briefed or informed on the dire state of those facing immediate destitution. This ‘appalling passivity’ is particularly unfair given the impassioned discourses and sundry promises delivered on the campaign trail. Integrating diaspora expertise in public consultations as well as in policy and decision-making practices has long been a fixture in public discourse, though it never quite seems to materialise.


Moreover, in the empowerment of some entities over others in generating points of contact with the community, but without transparent indicators (such as an association’s legal status, level of acceptance / degree of representation within the community, its capacity to trace cashflows from donations and the general handling of finances), homeland institutions (with some exceptions) widened the space of mistrust and uncertainty. It is as much a process failure as one emanating from institutional (mis)perceptions and attitudes towards the Romanian diaspora. Some of these issues are acknowledged by homeland representatives and public administrators themselves, particularly how a long-lasting, intensive politicisation led to a deep fragmentation, but it is also noticeable that there has been a lack of concerted action. The nominal acknowledgment of such issues has been welcomed by community leaders abroad, but there is a shared sense that discursive artifices cannot replace institutional accountability. An improper understanding of the myriad risks and vulnerabilities affecting an overwhelming proportion of Romanians living and working abroad crosses institutional borders and is amply shown in the proliferation of organised crime networks and human trafficking as malign forms of exploitation.


Nevertheless, we conducted an online session concerning mobilisation in the context of COVID-19, attended by public authorities and diaspora representatives from community and civic associations abroad. This enabled us to categorise commonalities as well as differences in perceptions towards the crisis. Figure 1 (below) outlines common positions from institutions and diaspora associations concerning suggested actions as a way forward and across a variety of topics. Figure 2 summarises nuanced perceptions of risks and vulnerabilities both systemic and compounded by the pandemic. The main objective of these online sessions was to identify commonalities of actions and interests, not only in addressing the immediate effects of the pandemic, but also in forging long-term solutions with the hope of redefining the relationship between the diaspora and homeland institutions.


This was a step forward towards digitalised communication and we were content to notice more openness from public authorities towards constructive engagement with diaspora communities. There is hope that in the near future the diaspora, through expertise and the grassroots experience of frontline community leaders, will bolster the policy and decision-making capacities of homeland institutions, thus strengthening the impact and legitimacy of their policy actions. Strategically aligning the objectives of both civil society and government so as to better respond to crises and emerging challenges is a scope in and of itself. This cannot occur in absence of constructive criticism, informed analyses, and transparent communication.



Reducing the gap between the acknowledgment of such issues and actual implementation no matter how complex, appears to be the way forward. Digitalisation, particularly for a country like Romania that builds its brand around technological capabilities, becomes an imperative. Perhaps, one optimistic facet is that the pandemic may have hastened this process. The reintegration of those who returned, by improving access to education, the labour market and other opportunities or incentives that may enable them to contribute is yet another challenge.[28] What also seems to fall through the net is the case of Romanian children born in the UK. In the context of Brexit, a world ravaged by a pandemic and governments that have no policies of dealing with second generation, dual citizens, they are at great risk of growing up with no identity or civic attainment, in a vacuum left unaddressed.[29]


A data-driven, transparent approach to diaspora engagement would enable home and host country institutions alike to become more informed of the actual circumstances facing Romanian communities. Stepping out of the (institutional) comfort zone and discussing the multifaceted impact of the pandemic not only on the diaspora but also on its contributions might go some way towards reducing (just about) some of the impending uncertainties. Of interest to policy and decision makers at home and abroad, could be the significantly reduced level of remittances sent from abroad and how this would impact the national economy on the backdrop of shrinking budgets.


Dispelling the uncertainties that plagued those already uprooted from abroad because of immediate destitution should form the corollary of future diaspora related strategies, at least by opening a truthful conversation about the vulnerabilities that overwhelm communities abroad. To this end, better coordination between homeland and host country institutions across a variety of topics, first and foremost by addressing the malign cross-border forms of exploitation and taking concerted action towards alleviating this plight would only counter the protracted mistrust in the institutional body. The diaspora is strategically placed to mediate such a process.


Andra-Lucia Martinescu is pursuing a PhD in International Relations at University of Cambridge and is a research fellow with the Foreign Policy Centre. She is co-founder and coordinator of The Diaspora Initiative, a research network focused on mapping the Romanian diaspora, and a pioneering project aimed at providing strategic insight for transnational diaspora initiatives.


Alina Balațchi is co-founder of the association Romanian Women in the UK and has been actively involved in the grassroots experience of diaspora communities (in the UK) since 2004. Alina is currently pursuing a PhD in Diaspora Studies at the National School for Political Science (SNSPA) in Romania, focusing on second generation UK-based Romanian diaspora.


[1] Ro Insider, Coronavirus: President asks Romanians living abroad not to come to the country for Easter, Romania Insider, March 2020,

[2] Matthew Holroyd, The region with twice as many coronavirus cases as anywhere else in Romania, Euro News, April 2020,

[3] Regional directorates for public health now a frontline in battling the virus can be deemed a weakness given that those in charge were appointed to such positions without a transparent, competitive or competence-based application process. In fact, a great many lack the minimal (medical or public health) background required for such positions.

[4] Paraphrased from Romanian; the account is available on social media and can be accessed in Romanian on Facebook:

[5] A comparison with Italy, particularly the Lombardy region is available at: Alison Mutler, Romania’s ‘Lombardy’: How a small Romanian region got so badly infected by the coronavirus, RFE/RL, March 2020,

[6] Romania is amongst the member states with the lowest public expenditure on healthcare within the EU. A more detailed overview can be accessed at: Romania: Health Care & Long-Term Care Systems, European Commission, October 2016,

[7] Alina Eftimie, Senator from Basescu’s party, attack on Romanians coming from the Diaspora: There are people who work illegally, Media Fax, March 2020,

[8] A zero-hour contract is a type of contract between an employer and a worker according to which the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours and the worker is not obliged to accept any work offered.

[9] Some 40,000 Romanians work as 24 -hour carers in Austria alone. An account of their livelihoods can be accessed here: Paula Erizanu, Stranded or shunned: Europe’s migrant workers caught in no-man’s land, The Guardian, April 2020,

[10] Romania’s Labour Minister (2019) made a public appeal and launched an advertising campaign for Romanian workers to return home from abroad, with a promise of one million jobs awaiting upon repatriation. Analysis available in English at: Chris Choi, Romanian workers go home – says Romania, ITV, October 2019, 

[11] Romanians returning from European hotspots were initially asked to self-isolate at home upon filling and signing a compliance form.

[12] The diaspora series can be accessed at: Andra-Lucia Martinescu, Understanding the Romanian Diaspora: A Strategically Important Network, FPC, November 2019, & Andra-Lucia Martinescu, Understanding the Romanian Diaspora, FPC, February 2019,

[13] Andreea Pora, Between 200,500 and 950,500 people entered Romania “escaped” from quarantine and isolation. Tested between 0.82% – 3.29%, Radio Europa Libera Romania, March 2020,—3-29-/30499768.html (available in Romanian).

[14] Analysis of disease control measures enforced by the Romanian government can be accessed at: Coronavirus in Romania: PM announces harsher penalties for those who help spread Covid-19, Romania Insider, March 2020,

[15] Hale, Thomas, Sam Webster, Anna Petherick, Toby Phillips, and Beatriz Kira (2020). Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, Blavatnik School of Government. Data use policy: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY standard.

[16] Mostly from Eastern Europe, particularly Romania, Bulgaria but also Poland; For UK: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Department of Health and Social Care, Coming to the UK for seasonal agricultural work on English farms, Government, July 2020,

[17] Editorial staff, Video 2000 people crowd in the parking lot in front of Cluj Airport to go to work in Germany / Explanations of the Airport management and the County Council, G4 Media, April 2020,

[18] The plight of Romanian seasonal workers in Germany has been investigated by Deutsche Welle and can be accessed at: Germany: Romanian workers reveal dire conditions at slaughterhouses, Deutsche Welle,

[19] Dr Roxana Bărbulescu, Seasonal harvest workers during Covid-19, UK in Changing Europe, June 2020,

[20] We are grateful to the openness and purposeful contributions these associations selflessly bring to diaspora communities abroad. In the UK to name but a few: Work Rights Centre, Link Luton, Law Centres Network, East European Resource Centre, Romanian Women in the UK, DOR – Romanian Diaspora UK (Rezist WMW, Midlands). We equally acknowledge their valuable contributions to this analysis and future studies. Special thanks to Sorina Stallard (DOR UK) for her insightful comments.

[21] No longer in effect as of September 21st, 2020.

[22] An explanation of what furlough schemes mean to both employers and employees is available at: Eleanor Lawrie, Job Support Scheme: How is furlough changing? BBC, September 2020,

[23] Due to Covid-19 restrictions the issuing of NINOs has been temporarily suspended, with the exception of those granted a work visa prior to arriving in the UK, and whose applications could be validated with the Home Office. For UK/EU/EEA citizens who haven’t interacted with the Home Office, under normal circumstances, their identity and right to work would have been validated in a face to face interview, a process now suspended.

[24] Particularly after a conflicted presidential election in 2019 which saw Romanians in the diaspora able to vote for as many as 3 days in a row.

[25] Soon to be published by Foreign Policy Centre, a collaborative project mapping the Romanian diaspora ecosystem, its interactions and impact in the United Kingdom. The project received a grant from the Department for Romanians Abroad (Romania), which we welcomed as a step forward in delivering knowledge and expertise for more informed diaspora engagement policies and strategies.

[26] Amongst which the local councils, the GLAA (Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority) etc.

[27] So far, the Romanian diaspora has been lumped/assimilated with other diaspora communities in local council schemes, which may not reflect the size of the population, its specificities and level of representation.

[28] Most children attended school abroad and are completely unfamiliar with the Romanian educational system or have the language aptitudes required to perform.

[29] With the national UK census coming up in the following month it would be interesting to see if the British government will explore dual nationality citizenship, so far, no statistics being publicly available.

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