Showing posts with label Roma. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roma. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

"I'm not racist, but....”

Scotland’s immigrant population is 369,284 -7% of the total population. Edinburgh has the highest number of immigrants with 75,696, but Aberdeen’s 35,436 is the largest proportionately, representing 16 per cent of the population. And Glasgow has seen the largest increase in numbers, up by almost 40,000 in a decade. 55,231 Poles were living in Scotland in 2011, more than 20 times higher than in 2001.

Europe as an ethnically homogenous nation-state is just a dream, and a pretty nasty one at that.  The free movement of labour is one of the basic premises of EU membership. It is always the way with  nationalists to hide racism under a cloak of caring about social conditions and forget that these were just as bad before any influx of immigrants. As the recession continues to bite, negative attitudes towards foreigners are becoming more common. Integration is often regarded as the key factor, but immigrant advocates say the whole burden of adjustment should not be borne by migrants themselves. Integration is the Holy Grail of immigration policy, accepted and promoted by all major political parties. There is the expectation  that they have to become like us and many are against cultural diversity.

We recently had Tom Harris, Labour MP for Glasgow South, offering his tuppence-worth in the Daily Telegraph which i am sure all his constituents read. He repeats all the usual stereotypes about the Roma, such as aggressive begging, even though laws presently exist  to stop that sort of thing and plenty of other laws against  all  the other alleged anti-social behaviour from happening. But par for the course as a Labour MP he never asks why the Roma are begging, appearing to believe its a comfortable desirable occupation to walk cold, windy, wet  Scottish streets, pleading for charity. It is because Romanians and Bulgarians are stopped from working and are refused benefits, legislation brought in by his government  that many beg as an alternative to starving.
He says "my constituents become angrier and more resentful, because the lives they have worked so hard to build for themselves and their families are being impinged upon by people whose culture, way of life and attitude to authority and those around them are utterly alien" [my emphasis] Then he goes on to associate accepting different cultures with the custom of female genital mutilation. He then implies that Labour should follow the Tory policy of further cutting benefits to migrant workers because "[Cameron] is speaking to a lot more people than just his own party’s Right wing."
So, his argument is not one of let us not challenge attitudes and try to change them, but rather, let us make sure we agree with the racists because it is not nice to call them prejudiced - especially if they are voters!!

We need people who want to make things better rather than scare-mongering MPs out to court popularity. Harris tries a mealy mouthed get out that he is not being racist and a xenophobe but he conveniently forgets that almost everywhere in Europe the Roma are exposed to a growing discrimination, ranging from exclusion from education and employment to racially motivated attacks. If we keep reading and hearing all the same tired old images of beggars and poverty it reinforces the prejudices. We'll fail to see the normality that are the experience of huge swathes of Romani society who are happily integrating - not to mention the common threads that bind us all.

 What people don't understand they tend to fear. There is a cycle of suspicion and hostility that generates anti-Roma sentiment, which in turn deepens prejudice and further pushes the community from the society into which we expect them to assimilate. Groups of men and socialise in the street, noisily chatting in Romani and gesticulating while their children play in the street. You can see how that is intimidating to a society that no longer know their neighbours in the same tenement building!

 The Roma distrust of authority is understandable, given their history of persecution and attempted genocide. In Eastern Europe there have been increased instances of firebombing, shooting, stabbing, beating and other violence towards the Roma community. France, Germany and Italy have expelled thousands of Roma.

Fotis Filippou of  Amnesty International said:
"Roma across Europe are being pushed to the margins of society as a result of forced evictions; they are attacked on ethnic basis, used as a scapegoat for wider societal problems, denied access to education and basic rights. The language used by media outlets across the region when reporting stories on Roma and the stereotyping rhetoric often used by politicians and public figures could have serious repercussions for the Roma all over Europe. It may further fuel the already existing prejudices against them and lead to stigmatisation and discrimination. Amnesty International calls on national and European authorities and media outlets to refrain from intentionally or unintentionally targeting Roma as an ethnic minority – and creating the perception in doing so that ethnicity can be linked to criminality – this is directly and unambiguously discriminatory, the effects of which could be disastrous.”
There is little chance of the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Daily Express of heeding such cautionary advice but let us not be mistaken even the “liberal” media has enthusiastically joined in the scape-goating of the Roma. Malcom X said “ If you are not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing”

 "Man tae man the world o'er shall brithers be, for a' that"

Monday, November 18, 2013

Defend the Roma

When it comes to catch-all caveats "I'm not a racist" ranks alongside the most common.

No one's ever racist nowadays. But somehow racism still seems to exist and find its target. Few doubt that certain views pervade and practices persist but even fewer will own up to holding them or following them. A system of discrimination remains, yet no one, apparently, is running it. So while those who take responsibility for it are rare, those who suffer the consequences are many.

Nick Clegg, used his disclaimer. "I am a liberal,"and went on to describe the Roma as sometimes "intimidating" and "offensive".

The Guardian recently reported that South Yorkshire police say crime has not increased significantly since the Roma moved to town a few years ago.

After a chip-shop owner swore two teenagers tried to sell him a baby, the police scoured CCTV footage and records of babies born in the area and found nothing. A police spokesman said it "could have been a joke in poor taste". That didn't stop it making the front page of the Daily Express, however.

 The arrival of a large number of poor people does demand resources to facilitate their integration. Those challenges are most likely to fall on working-class communities that are least equipped to meet then, their capacity further diminished by the swingeing cuts of Clegg's government, including  the Migration Impact Fund. But the challenges are because the Roma are overwhelmingly poor, not because they're Roma.

The truth is the Roma have far more to fear from non-Roma than vice-versa. Gassed by the Nazis, forcibly sterilised by the Swedes, recently expelled by the French, they have long been persecuted. In the last six weeks, two Roma families in Ireland, accused of stealing children because they didn't sufficiently look like them, had their kids taken away from them by the state only to have them returned. In Serbia, skinheads tried to snatch a blond child from in front of his house for the same reason.

For decades the ‘Communists’ forced ‘integration’ on Roma people. They forced education on them. They forced them into guaranteed jobs. It failed. Indeed, the ‘Communists’ invented the crime of ‘Parasitism’ specifically for those Roma who refused to work under any circumstances.The plight of the Roma in eastern Europe was so bad that securing minority rights for the Roma was a precondition for countries from the region joining the EU. Polls show that 91% of Czechs had "negative views" towards them while a survey of Hungarian police officers revealed that 54% believed criminality to be a key element of the Roma identity. In the Czech Republic, 75% of Roma children were placed in schools for people with learning difficulties; in Hungary it was 44%. The mayor of Mendez, a small town in Slovakia, said: "I am no racist … but some Gypsies you would have to shoot."

Scapegoating foreigners proves easier than blaming the housing crisis on all those single mums getting purposefully pregnant to get a council house, because often than not a reader will actually have a single mother as a relation or a friend who is and they know very well it is not true. Blaming people you have little contact with is more fruitful a tactic for the divide and rule merchants. The Roma are powerless, they voiceless and  unrepresented,and now serve as our enemy within. They are defenceless against us, but we tell each other that they threaten us. The media frighten us with ancient fairy tales: they steal our children. Politicians join in, sanctioning prejudices with veiled threats of legal action and punitive restrictions. The racists have moved on from the “white pakis” - the Poles - to the Roma. Who lives here, belongs here.
The Slovak Spectator: In the UK you use the terms Roma, Gypsies and Travellers. What is the difference between them?
Arthur Ivatts: The difference is just in the name. The English Gypsies are Roma, they came from India in the 10th century in the same way as the Slovak Roma and they migrated further west to the Netherlands, Scotland and then travelled as nomadic groups in England, Ireland and Scotland since the 16th century. So they are Roma but they were called Egyptians because they said they had come from Egypt. But the word ‘Gypsy’ was seen as a bit derogatory in the UK, as here. So in the 1950s and 60s the Gypsies said they didn’t want to be called Gypsies, they said they were ‘Travellers’. But then in the 1970s the Irish travellers came to the UK in more significant numbers and many Gypsies didn’t want to be called the same, with some wanting to be called Roma, to follow the rest of Europe. Then we had Central-Eastern European (CEE) Roma coming to the UK, so the English Gypsies wanted to be distinguished from them and so now perhaps a majority say they would prefer to be known as Gypsies again. So we use the terms Roma, Gypsies and Travellers to attempt to satisfy everyone in terms of the justified sensitivities surrounding ethnic self-ascription... The Roma have been abused for over 500 years. They are the classic example of the whole continent’s racial abuse of a minority. And now, everybody stands back and says: ‘Just look at them, they are happy in their ghetto communities, they don’t want to work, they are not interested in education, they are just interested in the benefits’.
The non-Roma world is not accepting their responsibility for what they’ve done to this minority over five centuries. And when we come to pick up the pieces of this abuse, what do we do? We blame the victims. We don’t blame ourselves. This is the tragedy of Europe today. What we need is an apology to the Roma. We need an historic apology from the governments to say ‘We are sorry about what has happened to you in this society’. Because what European society has done to the Roma has included enslavement, banishment, discrimination, persecution and attempted genocide time and time again. Has any of that ever been apologised for or even publicly acknowledged? ... One well known British politician said that if they [Roma] start behaving properly we would treat them properly – such a comment shows a complete lack of understanding of the history, it blames the victims of racial abuse and suggests that human rights are a conditional commodity linked to the stereotypes of particular groups of people.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Roma discrimination

A report, commissioned by Oxfam, says members of the large Roma community in Glasgow have been systematically threatened and lied to by government employees while long delays in payments of legitimate benefits have led to high levels of child poverty.

 Evidence of discrimination and prejudice against the most marginalised ethnic group in Europe is contained in the report written by the Govanhill Law Centre (GLC), which investigated how more than 60 Roma families living in the city were dealt with by the DWP and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The lawyers who carried out the investigation said the way many Roma were treated was contrary to the UK government’s legal obligations and amounted to unlawful and unequal treatment.

 As a result of delays in payments – up to three years in some cases – 36 per cent of low-paid Roma claimants faced destitution. These included one woman with three children and a baby less than one year old who was unlawfully evicted from her home because her housing benefit had been wrongly assessed. Another woman with seven children was also evicted and had to sleep on a family member’s floor.

 Among the report’s findings are that:
Public employees made unwarranted threats to return claimants back to their home countries and wrongly stated the law; there was an unreasonable delay with decisions on benefits in 56 per cent of cases; nearly half of all Roma claims - 47 per cent - were automatically dealt with as fraudulent by the HMRC; as a result of delays in payments, one in five Roma claimants faced homelessness;70 per cent of Roma interviewees said they felt discriminated against by public officials.

 Judith Robertson, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “We are extremely concerned by evidence that Roma people are being treated differently from other EU citizens. Evidence of discrimination within the DWP or HMRC against any particular group should be properly investigated and acted on. We need to make sure that our benefits system treats people equally.”

 Hanzala Malik, a Labour MSP in Glasgow, called for an inquiry. He said: “I am gravely concerned if people are being pushed into destitution by the very systems meant to protect them. Many Roma people across Europe have endured a great deal of hardship in their home country, only to be met with suspicion and discrimination here in Scotland. The allegations of public authority staff wrongly stating the law and making unwarranted threats to people who do not know ‘the system’ are very serious and if proven would be totally unacceptable.The resources to support and advocate for ethnic minorities or pursue claims of racism or discrimination have diminished to practically nothing. This leaves groups such as the Roma communities even more vulnerable and people or institutions acting in a racist manner feel they will not be investigated. I fully support and call for a full inquiry as such attitudes need to be challenged.”

Socialist Courier has posted several times on the plight of the Roma 

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Slums and Migrants

Govanhill sits between the Gorbals and Queens Park on the south side of Glasgow. It is a place of traditional tenements and has been home to various migrants for generations. The latest come from Eastern Europe's Roma community. It is estimated that about 2,000 to 3,000 have moved to this part of Glasgow.The BBC reports

A report by Oxfam into the Govanhill migrants found:

"On arrival, Roma without exception find themselves either without employment, or with a temporary 'position', and sharing small flats in conditions of extreme overcrowding and squalor. Having paid weekly 'fees' to 'gangmasters', Roma find they are unable to change their situation. Indeed, to break away from this exploitation puts them at extreme risk, not only of unemployment, but also homelessness and destitution in the absence of benefit entitlement."

EU migrants like the Roma are not entitled to housing benefits. They are also unlikely to satisfy the credit checks expected by most landlords.This means they group together in order to afford rents and accept properties in conditions that others wouldn't. Oxfam concluded that in Govanhill:

"There appears to be high availability of poor quality, private rented accommodation provided by landlords prepared to turn a blind eye to overcrowding providing the price is right. Issuing no formal tenancy agreements means tenants have limited notional rights and therefore cannot easily protect themselves against unregulated landlords."

Mike Dailly, from the Govan law centre said: "People are coming from Eastern Europe and they are coming to work. They arrive in Glasgow with the promise of work having paid £450. They then discover there is no job for them and they have been ripped off.So what we've got is gangmaster agencies working abroad, working hand in hand with landlords in Govanhill and ripping people off."