Friday, February 21, 2014

The Roma in Romania

Around one million Roma live in Romania, often facing discrimination, lack of access to health care and education, and public scorn. The unemployment rate among Roma is far higher than that of the average Romanian, and wages paid to Roma are often much less than those paid to Romanians in similar positions. Because jobs are scarce, some search for and sell trash and plastic and glass bottles. Romanian president Traian Basescu was recently fined in court for saying, "A lot of Roma traditionally live off what they steal."

In September 2013, local authorities in Eforie Sud, a beach town in southeastern Romania, evicted 78 Roma from their houses. Their homes had been illegally built on city property decades ago. The evictions caused the Roma living there to lose their livelihood: 33 children and 45 adults were left literally standing in the rain. The Romanian Ombudsman accused local authorities of ignoring relevant human rights legislation, and although the eviction itself was legal, the city failed to provide decent accommodation for the newly homeless families.  The mayor, Ion Ovidiu Brailoiu, announced that living facilities had been set up in abandoned schools. Brailoiu had called the eviction a "long overdue cleanup operation, a problem that had been ignored for too long" and promises were made that the cleared land would be used to build housing units. Today, five months after the eviction, the 78 Roma continue to live in dire conditions. Local authorities have threatened to remove the families from these facilities in March, with no mention of alternative accommodation.

The story in Eforie Sud is not an exception, but rather a symptom of a bigger problem in Romania and elsewhere in the European Union. In June 2012, for instance, 1,000 Roma from the city of Baia Mare were forcefully evicted from their homes and moved into a former chemical plant. Thirteen children and one adult suffered health problems as a result, and needed medical care.

According to statistics, approximately 34 percent of Roma live in sub-standard housing conditions and 1 percent live in squatter areas. About 14 percent of Roma children suffer from chronic diseases or disabilities and 50 percent of Roma children do not have immunisation vaccines.

“ No one chooses in this world to be POOR, POVERTY is inflicted because it's convenient to somebody!" Tina, a Roma, commenting on the AlJazeera article

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