Saturday, November 07, 2015

The Roma in Malmo

A search of the SOYMB archives shows that it has previously expressed concern about the persecution of the Roma. Once more we post a report on the issue.

Police forcibly removed about 100 people from a makeshift Roma camp who had ignored a weekend deadline to leave the cluster of caravans and huts made of plywood and plastic in an empty lot, deemed unsanitary in a court order last week in Sweden's southern city of Malmö. Under Swedish law, locals and visitors alike usually have the right to walk or camp on almost any land, although this does not include public land that is adjacent to residential property or privately-owned gardens. The case of the camp in Malmö is unique because the person who owns the land tolerated the migrants for six months before launching a trespassing case with police. “They surrounded us, began dragging away people, dragged them through the gravel,” a protester called Samuel told Swedish news agency TT. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has said hundreds of Roma migrants left without an overnight base after police cleared out a huge 'shanty town' in Malmö are not Sweden's responsibility.

Roma, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, are free to travel to Sweden as EU citizens. Unlike the asylum-seeker, who are housed in government-run refugee shelters, the Roma mostly fend for themselves. As EU citizens they don't qualify for asylum, which is reserved for refugees fleeing war and persecution.

The evacuation of a squalid Roma camp this week has forced Swedes to come to terms with a troubling new reality: For the first time in generations, they are witnessing people living in abject poverty, without basic amenities such as electricity and running water. They sleep on sidewalks, wrapped in blankets on cardboard boxes or in makeshift homes made of plywood, metal and sheets of plastic. They eke out a living by panhandling and recycling bottles and cans. Though there are no hard statistics they now number around 4,500. They're not protected by Sweden's welfare system because they're considered visitors, not residents. They're only eligible for emergency aid including a few days of food and housing at homeless shelters and assistance to return home. Many Roma don't even want that, avoiding authorities as much as they can. They set up camp in abandoned plots of land or in parks, often with the intent to go back home


Peter Bennett said...

what about working?

ajohnstone said...

As usual - blame the victim.

In 2003, a United Nations report provided, for the first time, evidence on the extent of the challenges faced by Roma, including illiteracy, infant mortality, unemployment and segregation in education. Hunger and malnutrition, squalid housing without plumbing or sanitation, substandard health care, and other factors mean Roma have the shortest life expectancy in Europe.

Over the centuries, Roma have been subjected to oppression and violence by other Europeans. During the Second World War, the Nazis exterminated hundreds of thousands of Roma (a time referred to as the Baro Porrajmos, or Great Devouring). After the war Roma continued to experience—and in some places, still do—killings, violence, forced sterilization, forced segregation, evictions, and extreme poverty.

Recently political leaders in Europe have fomented hatred of the Roma in order to win popular support. Their messages of intolerance resonate widely and often encourage violence from individuals and groups in countries such as Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania where there have been fatal beatings, shootings, and fire-bombings against Roma.

Peter Bennett said...

Agreed. But
A 2006 report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also found that some Roma communities practice child trafficking; children have reportedly been engaged for labor, petty crime and sexual exploitation.

Many Romani avoid assimilation with the larger societies of their host countries — this may be a legacy of centuries of persecution. Because of their isolation, many Roma children do not attend school; Romani typically lack access to stable jobs, affordable housing, health care and other social services. As a result, poverty, disease, substance abuse and crime plague many Roma communities.

ajohnstone said...

Certainly the blog would not wish to offer simplistic explanations to the reasons and causes of the discrimination of the Roma. Like most things in life, it is far more complicated and confused. You are indeed right to point out that traditional Roma society retains customs such as it still arranges marriages between minors as young as 12 and brides who are sometimes bartered and traded between Roma communities, an activity that has alarmed European officials concerned with human trafficking.

This New York Times article is a useful overview that ends with a very instructive admonition
“We Roma,” she said, “also need to learn to emancipate ourselves.”