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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 h…

Who are the Gypsies?

Although they have been living in our own continent for over eight centuries,  this is a question still widespread among European people, as an inexplicable enigma. In their travels - often running away from the hostility of who, not knowing them, fear them and does n’t want to be their neighbours - when Gypsies arrive in a city and decide to settle in a district, people immediately watch them with open hostility. In those eyes full of distrust and fear there is always the same question: who are you? Over the centuries Roma people have been defined by many names. Their assumed Egyptian origin is the reason of the name “gypsies”. Historians and linguists now agree on the Indian origin of Roma people. The Romani (or Romanes)  language is a neo-Aryan language related to the ancient Sanskrit, and it is now spoken, in different dialects, in several Asiatic and European countries. It is undeniable that Roma has been subjected to prejudice and slander, sources of discriminatory attitudes and…

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 …

"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 themsel…

The Roma "Child Sex Scandal"

The Socialist Standard highlighted the persecution of the Roma, particularly in Eastern Europe. But the scapegoating also exists here in Scotland.

A charity group which works to support Roma communities in Glasgow has hit out at claims children as young as primary school age are being forced into prostitution on the streets of Govanhill. Friends of Romano Lav (FoRL) have now released a statement which blasts the "spurious and unevidenced" allegations. Members say they have "not encountered any instances of the child protection issues" highlighted this week. "They would say that," is the response. It's a no-win situation for Roma community workers. If you don't speak, you will never influence or integrate. If you speak, you will not be believed.

Police Scotland said there was "no information or intelligence to substantiate the concerns" 

The Times recent lurid investigative report by journalist Marc Horne stated that ‘children [are being] so…

The Govanhill Slums (2)

In the Govanhill area of Glasgow, poverty is high and worker exploitation is commonplace. Parts of Govanhill are ranked among the most deprived in the country, according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. Local agencies highlight overcrowding, poor housing and rogue landlords as the key problem.
Figures obtained by the BBC show that of a study of 310 local Roma people, most were working but that more than a third were receiving less than the minimum wage. Govanhill has one of the largest concentrations of Roma people in the UK. There are 42 different languages spoken in Govanhill, but a glance at social media would suggest that all the migrants in the area are Roma. They are often blamed for what goes wrong in the community.
Ch Insp Graham McInarlin, the area commander, said Govanhill did not merit its reputation "There are a number of myths in the area. If we are to believe everything we read then the Roma are responsible for all crime in the area. In actual fact we…

“Fresh air and freedom, everyone should taste it.”

While the Nackin people, who first appear in official records in the twelfth century in Scotland, have adapted their lives to keep up with economic change over the centuries, this commitment to a life on the road has remained resolute. The word ‘Gypsy’ comes from English medieval references to the Roma people, who scholars believed came from Egypt. In fact, DNA testing and linguistic studies show that the Roma originated in the Punjab, and many words in the Romanis language have their roots in Sanskrit. The Scottish Nackin, meanwhile, speak Cant, which has Scots, Gaelic and Norse roots, with some Romani influences from when the Roma reached the British Isles. One such word, ‘gadgie’, is a commonly used Scots slang word and is the Cant word for man. In Romani, the word ‘gaji’ is from the ancient Sanskrit word for civilian.

Most of the Roma in Scotland now are immigrants from Europe, alongside English Gypsies and Welsh Kali, both of whom have Romani roots.
Irish Travellers, usually called…

Global Govanhill

Govanhill on the south side of Glasgow is home to some 15,000 has people from an estimated 42 different nationalities living within one square mile. Why Govanhill?  The availability of cheap, private-let housing is one practical reason. Also, immigration is self-perpetuating – the presence of an established community makes it more likely others will come and settle. Govanhill was at one time a mining village outside Glasgow. It started to expand significantly from 1837 with the foundation of the Govan Iron Works, known to this day, even though it is long gone, as Dixon’s Blazes. The Irish also began to arrive in Glasgow in large numbers at around this time, estimated at more than 1,000 people a week during 1848 – escaping the famine and seeking employment. In the 1960s, with the demolition of the Gorbals tenements, a second wave of Irish moved to Govanhill. At the end of the 19th century, heavy industry began to draw Jews from Poland and Lithuania. Significant immigration from the In…

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…

Bread and Circuses

Abolish the wages and prices system. There is no such thing as a fair day’s pay. Wages are only ever a rationing of access to the massive wealth collectively produced. Wage workers are exploited at the point of production for the surplus value which they produce in order for the parasite capitalist class to amass huge profits. Businesses such as Celtic football club are no different in this respect regardless of the founding ethos. Sectarian divisions in Scotland and elsewhere have workers at each other’s throats rather than pursuing their common interest, which is getting rid of the parasitic capitalist system and establishing a free access, moneyless, government less, social system. Such are the modern versions of bread and circuses. Establish common ownership of all wealth production and distribution rendering boardrooms obsolete.
"When sport is considered only in economic terms and consequently for victory at every cost, it risks reducing athletes to mere trading material from…


"Mihai Sanda and his family, 37 of them, live in half-a-dozen self-built, mud-floored huts. In his two-room dwelling, seven people share one bedroom; chickens cluck in the other room. The dirt and smell, the lack of mains water, electricity, sewerage and telephone are all redolent of the poorest countries in the world. So is the illiteracy. Ionela Calin, a 34-year-old member of Mr Sanda's extended family, married at 15 without ever going to school. Of her eight children, four are unschooled. Two, Leonard, aged four and Narcissa, aged two, do not even have birth certificates; Ionela believes (wrongly, in fact) that she cannot register their birth because her own identity document has expired. For the millions of Europeans—estimates range between 4m and 12m—loosely labelled as Roma or Gypsies, that is life: corralled into settlements that put them physically and psychologically at the edge of mainstream existence, with the gap between them and modernity growing rather than sh…

Scottish Racism

Racist murders are more common in Scotland than in the rest of the UK, according to a shock academic study into the extent of prejudice. A new book insists the belief Scotland is immune to racism and “culturally different” to England is condemned as a “misleading fantasy”. The authors of No Problem Here: Understanding Racism in Scotland cite official crime figures to prove there is a very real problem. The analysis shows the rate of racist murders is higher on average in Scotland than in the UK as a whole. Between 2000 and 2013, there were 1.8 murders per million people with a known or suspected race element in Scotland. The equivalent figure for the UK was just 1.3 murders per million people. Carol Young, senior policy officer for the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, said the stats show the idea that Scotland doesn’t have a problem with racism is false.  “There’s a perception that Scotland has less of a problem with racism than other areas of the UK, perhaps best summed up …

Scottish Nationalism and European Nationalism

Nationalism, as we have seen, is always the tool of the bourgeoisie, historically.  The Socialist Party will argue in this June the 8th General Election that liberation for Scottish workers can come about only by overthrowing capitalism itself. If this is not done, no amount of sovereignty can ever succeed in bringing freedom, but the only diversion.At present Scottish nationalism and the SNP have the appearance of being a progressive movement to some honest people and those sincere people in and around the nationalist movement will only discover, in some years’ time, that they have been most cruelly misled and have been wasting their time.  Instead of tragically wasting their time fostering nationalism (in whatever form), they must build a powerful socialist movement.
Many who will vote for the SNP will do so in the hope that eventual Scottish independence will bring re-membership with the EU which is routinely presented as an internationalist project for an ever closer union between …

Forlorn hopes in Govanhill

SOUTHSIDE Central contains what are two of the most notorious areas of the city – the Gorbals and Govanhill.

With high levels of poverty, overcrowding and fly tipping, it’s easy to overlook the many positives - community spirit, excellent amenities, great transport links. Jim Monaghan is a community campaigner who works for Govanhill Community Baths said: “The best thing about Govanhill is the mix of people. You’ve got the kind of hipster artists and working class people who have been in the area for decades and migrants who have just come here. The diversity is not just in terms of race but also social cultures, which makes it a really interesting place to be a place that no matter what your community or culture is, whether ethnic or social, you’ll find someone like you.”  On the other hand, Jim says poverty is a huge issue. He said: “What I like least is the poverty, which you see in the overcrowded housing. Because of the mix of housing here being low rent, poor quality and easy to ge…

Minorities in Scotland

The proportion of the population from non-white ethnic groups is just 4% in Scotland, compared with around 13% across the UK.
People from ethnic minorities in Scotland are four times more likely than the general population to live in overcrowded accommodation, 11.8% compared with 2.9%, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). They are also twice as likely to be poor and out of work. After housing costs, 36% of people from ethnic minorities were in poverty, compared with 17% of white people. Unemployment rates for people from ethnic minorities in 2013 were significantly higher than for the population as a whole - 13.2% compared with 6.9%. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children do much worse at school than their white classmates. Just over half of Gypsies and Travellers in Scotland are economically inactive, and many live in what the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee described as "horrendous conditions". In Scotland, a greater proportion…

Racism, Nationalism, Patriotism, Xenophobia and Bigotry

Working class people are tired of living in poverty, tired of living payslip to payslip, tired of seeing the products of their hard efforts evaporate before their very eyes. The times are tough for many of us, where we don't know how we're going to survive. Politician after politician makes empty promises, and still there's no relief for us workers. So we start to look around at who to blame, and it's easy enough... we blame black people, brown people, immigrants. It's simple enough. We're in competition with these people for jobs and resources, so it seems like a logical enough conclusion to come to. Historically, we've always been at odds with foreigners. We can better relate to others born here, no matter how poor or rich. They're more like us, and that's something we can identify with, come to terms with. So, obviously, our natural enemies become those not from here. 
The only problem with this idea is that we've had it wrong for centuries.…

The immigration Issue

Migration is but yet another symptom of the bankruptcy of capitalism, yet another contradiction that cannot be solved on a capitalist basis. The only way to solve this, like all the other issues, is the socialist transformation of society which would remove the need for migration. The answer to people fleeing conflict, deprivation and brutal regimes is to remove the root causes of such nastiness—minority ownership and control of productive resources which generates rivalry for the upper hand, and restricts provision of, and access to, goods and services according to available profits and ability to pay. It is this exclusive possession and control of resources that also divides the world into separate competing countries and blocs, and the need for associated borders to prevent others from attempting to acquire these valuable assets by armed force, subversion or, in the case of migrants during economic downturns, "excess" demand (i.e., too many unemployed and unemployable pe…

Socialist Standard No. 1313 January 2014