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Editorial

Plight Of Romas

Stateless people abound    across the globe. They are political refugees, they are economic refugees. They are refugees from dozens of civil war. Migrants everywhere are unwelcome ‘guests’, albeit many advanced economies cannot sustain their cherished growth without cheap migrant labour. While internal migration creates parochialism and provincialism, international migration fuels racism—plain and simple. And Romas are the worst victims of this racism in most European countries. In truth nobody in India bothers about Romas but they have Indian connections in their blood.

The term Roma covers ethnic groups who arrived in Europe from the 9th century onwards from India, and settled across the continent. They are ethnically distinct from the Irish travelling community. France has 394 Roma shantytowns, housing 16,949 people. The gypsies live on old sofas, in huts made of wood, cardboard and tarpaulins. They are the cause of widespread anger over claims that they bring crime and poverty to a country in economic crisis. Roma shacks are frequently bulldozed by French authorities, shifting them to another shanty town. East European Romas come from Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The accession of several former communist countries to the European Union in 2004 and 2007, enabled the free movement of people. Roma migrants sprawl grimy southern suburbs of Paris region. They are now the victims of a racist outpouring. Distrust stems from a belief that Roma networks use their children as pickpockets or prostitutes, which is partly true and partly prejudice. A total of 10641 Romas were arrested in Paris over 2013, and Romanian children accounted for 54% of all the offences committed by juvenile delinquents in Paris. In 2012, some residents of Marseille forced occupants out of a Roma camp, before burning it down. In Velleneuve d’Ascq in northern France, vigilante groups plastered the town with ‘wanted’ posters, showing photographs of Roma immigrants, allegedly involved in thieving. Several culprits have been caught and beaten up. Forty-one shacks in Grigny is home to about 180 Roma people from Romania.

The Roma population spreads across at least 12 countries in Europe. Most Romas are EU citizens with Romanian passport, and therefore, are able to enter France or any other member state of EU. They travel to wealthy European states, which seek to get rid of them in a backdrop of human misery, racism and hatred. Immigrants are expelled to Romania and Bulgaria. Roma people from East European countries, that belong to the EU, have the same right of freedom of movement, as citizens of other member states. They can legally live in other EU country for three months, but beyond that time they must prove they can support themselves. Hailing from ill-educated and impoverished rural communities, the Roma immigrants rarely have the documents, the wage slips and the bank accounts to do so. Thousands of Roma immigrants are expelled from France every year, mainly to Romania and Bulgaria. They merely need to prove that they have set for in their country of origin, to be readmitted to their country of destination in western Europe. France’s welfare benefits, once made available to the Roma migrants, were largely stopped in 2007. There are restrictions on the jobs they can do, with 291 trades available to them, from hair dressing to gardening, but more lucrative professions require special authorisation. Only a minority people have access to council housing.

Frontier
Vol. 46, No. 44, May 11 -17, 2014