Is Romania exporting social problems ?

Tigani din Romania la spalat de masini
Tigani din Romania la spalat de masini
London at this time of the year, looks both very grey and dull. Driving on A406 , all you can do beside observing the speed limit from time to time, is to listen to the radio.

The credit crunch is everywhere, like an invisible disease affecting everyone.

As a Transylvanian emigrant in London, I am very much concerned too. The company that I work for asked all the employees to reduce spending if possible and that includes petrol. But then again, I am the boss who creates company policies.

Like clockwork the traffic grinds to a halt, next to a petrol station. My meeting is in 45 minutes and I am about 20 minutes away from my destination. At precisely 14: 15, something extraordinary and socially explicit has happened, right before my very own eyes.

On the other side of the traffic light a group of girls dressed up like gypsies, appeared from nowhere, all of them equipped with something that looked like a sponge and a plastic water bottle.

With a very quick scan, probably moulded by experience, they started to take over the drivers and their cars – whom had the miss fortune to be stopped by the red lights.

You don’t have to take my word for it. As it happens, I had a photo camera with me. You may wonder, why would I take pictures of some girls dressed up in long skirts, in the middle of the traffic light, and rightly do so.

One of them draws a heart on the windscreen of a German made car, using car wash shampoo, very imaginative I must admit. The driver of the car did not look very happy as he was gesturing like a football fan injected with petrol and saying that was not a penalty.

That’s when I decided that is worth pulling over and take my camera out. Also the fact that I believed the girls to be gypsies from Romania, made everything more interesting.

I get out of the car and then back in. I forgot to take my camera with me in the excitement. I want to see the way British people react and write about it, later on.

This is the moment when I took the first picture and also the moment before the girls noticed me taking pictures of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They do the same in Romania, except that they can behave more aggressively. The art of avoiding eye contact is taken to an extraordinary level by the white Romanians who are afraid and the gipsy communities DO have no-go areas where you need to be accompanied by a local in order to get in and out safely.

If the driver of the car is not going into an emotional melt down when he/she sees a heart drawn by a stranger on his/her windscreen, they would look at you with a gaze that says: ‘Just give me the spare change and you might still have your rear mirror before the traffic light turns green.’

Few seconds later, one girl points out at me. They all turn towards me and start shouting abusive insults, while using the middle finger to make their message more explicit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I take one more picture, and before I decide that is better to back off, the girls start to panic. My first thought was that I have either intimidated them, or some people still think that having your photo taken will take your soul too.

They start running with an amazing sprint. I am happy that the light is red, and the girls get safely off the road. I am happy and puzzled to what I did that caused such strong reaction from them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poverty breeds ignorance indeed, especially if mixed with tradition and a lack of education. As a child, my mother used to threaten me that she will give me away to the gypsies if I misbehave again. The bad reputation that burdens the gypsies is deep seeded into Romanian culture and the statistics do not help to argue against it.

My understanding is that there is even a proposed petition to the parliament, asking for the words Roma and Romani to be banned from describing a member of an ethnic group.

The Romanians added an extra r to the official way to describe a gipsy – rroma as a temporary solution – which might prove to be a quixotic fight since the term gipsy can be used and it used as an insult similar to the slangs like pike or paky in Britain. In general it is used in a context to express undertone racism – covert or racist connotations by the white romanians.

The late exodus that has taken place within the European Union is forcing the government to insist that media makes a distinction between the Romani/gypsies from the Romanians at least in the news, in a futile attempt to protect the reputation of Romania abroad.

 

 

The word Roma or Romani is easily adopted by the less informed foreigners, as representing Romanians. There was few instances when people expressed their surprise that I am Romanian since they all believed that Romanians are brown skinned people.

For example I remember when I was asked by a relatively educated British business man of Asian descent within minutes of meeting me : Are all the Romanians white ? – while pinching his skin until it became white to make himself understood better. To which I answered : Probably you’re just confused by my blue eyes, Mate ! – not wanting to go into an ethnicity lesson for free.

 

 

Few years ago, back in Transylvania, the Romanian company I was working for at the time, got itself involved in a social deal with the government. It meant that they employed people with a criminal record, recently released from prison and the tax payer pays for it, as part of a rehabilitation program.

When the announcement that we are going to have gipsies in our team was made, the common feeling was best described by a remark voiced by a colleague: ‘Great. Keep your stuff with you at all times.’

Being the youngest employee there, I was also the most naive when dealing with my new colleagues. And it paid off. I’ve got fresh coffee every morning and invitations to spend the weekends in a remote gipsy village, together with the option of choosing myself a wife.

There was also an offer to improve the shape of my penis by having small – glass made balls, inserted into my penis. I always said no, even thou I was told that an operation like that is very exquisite and usually costs lots of money. My new friends would do it for free because they like me.

Romanian beggar on North Circular, London. Photo: Click Romania
Romanian beggar on North Circular, London. Photo: Click Romania

Now that Obama is the president elect of the USA, every minority in Europe is under the spot light. Except for the gipsies that is.

Romania has about 2 million of them and they never asked for the streets to bear the same name in two different languages like the Hungarians did. Let alone having a gipsy the president of Romania.

This is the main reason why I had to stop my car in the middle of a traffic junction considering the fact that I already have two speeding penalties while I was driving to work. I can also tell you the reason why the gipsy girls run off.

Behind me, there was a police man ridding a bike.

Is that you car ?’ he asks
Yes
Why do you take pictures?’
Well, I was… here…‘ I say while I am looking at my car parked, half on the road and the rest of it on the pavement. The last thing I need is to have my driving licence taken away, because somebody long time ago, offered me to have a penis enhancement operation. At least I’ve put my hazards light on, and there is no way that my car can cause an accident.

You have to move your car before an accident happens

Of course, I was about to do that‘ I say

Why do you take pictures?’ the police man asks again

I am trying to be calm but all I could come up with was: ‘I want to post them on the internet, something relating to gipsies in UK

‘Are you foreign ?’ he asks

I am Romanian‘ I say – thinking how foreign is that, since me and the gipsy girls whom just outrun him, might be an overwhelming majority here.

‘Please move your car now’

I am not a wise person, but I do know when is a good time to get back in your car. But then again, somebody who parks a car next to a traffic junction, in order to take pictures of some girls washing wind screens, is bound to live like a gipsy.

I point my camera at the police man, take a picture of him and before he changes his mind, I get in my car and drive off into a depressing autumn, while somebody on the radio tells me that the European economy is in recession.

I decide to change the radio station. If the British behave like Romanians do – towards the gipsies, then I shall be so lucky to have white skin and blue eyes. That’s Kylie Minogue on the radio. The gipsies are an European problem, unless you ride horses with your shirt open, towards an open fire, where gipsy girls dance on the rhythm of globalisation.

The next song is Pink Floyd and they are wrong – we all need education. Take any human being and educate him or her, like you do with white people and you might get yourself an Obama who’s ready lead you into a new world where everyone can contribute to the society, and perhaps to a world where people don’t park their cars in the wrong places.

 

Romanian version here : Romania exporta probleme sociale

Due to the nature and volume of the comments the comment section it is now closed. 


Publicație britanică-europeană pentru diaspora,ZIAR ROMANESC , ROMÂNI IN UK, PUBLICAȚIE BRITANICĂ-EUROPEANĂ PENTRU DIASPORA ROMÂNEASCĂ
ZIAR ROMANESC , ROMÂNI IN UK, PUBLICAȚIE BRITANICĂ-EUROPEANĂ PENTRU DIASPORA ROMÂNEASCĂ

About A.M 43 Articles
Îmbătrânesc eu sau se duce lumea dracului? Un adolescent reciclat din Londra. @AVAV4V ‘If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.’ Non so cosa dire, sono senza parole. A volte mi vedo fare le cose, ma è come fossi un robot. La mia testa osserva, ma tutto avviene automaticamente. Le parole-Le Mot Juste- escono dalla mia bocca senza che possa decidere quello che dico, non riesco a controllarlo.

17 Comments

  1. The truth about Romania’s gypsies: Not coming over here, not stealing our jobs New Neighbours of 2014, Part 1: Right-wing politicians and media are stoking fears that Romanian Gypsies plan to flock to Britain

    A freezing wind sweeps in across the Romanian countryside. The sweet stench of garbage catches at the back of the throat, and feral dogs chase one another over the heaps of filth. This rubbish dump, for Claudia Greta and her family, is home, her house a ramshackle single-storey shack. Claudia, 40, is one of more than 1,500 Roma Gypsies who live in a sprawling, fetid encampment on a landfill site outside Romania’s second-largest city Cluj-Napoca. The residents of Pata Rat – half of them are children – have been forcibly moved there over the past 15 years. Claudia opens the shack door to a room little bigger than a caravan and sighs: “Look where we live. We live on top of garbage.”

    Many Romanians have been perplexed by the British Government’s determination to dissuade them from coming to the UK. Next year, the quotas which let EU countries limit the number of Bulgarian and Romanian migrants crossing their borders will be lifted – allowing 29 million people free travel and working rights across Europe. But Britain wants to deter them from crossing the Channel.

    Suspicions have been raised in Bucharest and Sofia that what the UK Government really fears – but dares not say publicly – is the mass migration of Roma, Europe’s most marginalised and maligned minority. That, in turn, has created further animosity towards the Roma, with other Romanians and Bulgarians blaming those communities for tarnishing their country’s image.

    For the garbage-dump Roma people of Pata Rat, there’s little reason to feel loyalty to their homeland. Many have been forcibly moved there by the local authorities. In the most recent eviction, two years ago, nearly 400 Roma were given two days’ notice to move out of houses where families had been living without conflict for generations. The European Roma Rights Centre is fighting a court battle to have their evictions quashed. “For 20 years we lived in real homes in the centre of town,” says Claudia. “We paid rent, we paid electricity, we didn’t steal anything. We had jobs and we found work. Our kids went to school, they went to internet cafés or down to the library. Now look where we live. We live on top of garbage. Where we are now, we can’t do anything.”

    Claudia is adamant that no matter how badly treated her family is, she will stay in Romania.

    “If we are not even accepted in our own country, what is the chance somewhere else will accept us?” she asks. “My children are here, my mother is here. This is where I was born. All we want is to be able to live and work. We want to stay in Romania.”

    It is a testament to how strongly she feels that, despite the discrimination, Romania is still her homeland. But others are thinking about leaving. Her sister Elena, who lives up the road in a similar-sized room that sleeps eight of her family, is willing to look outside Romania’s borders.

    “If I could provide a better life and condition for my children, I would think about getting away,” she admits. “If there was a way to escape this discrimination, then of course I would go. But no one wants to leave.”

    She adds: “I have thought about political asylum in the UK. Some people from Spain, Brazil and Great Britain promised to help after the eviction. But no one did anything.”

    The situation in this landfill slum is just one example of the multiple persecutions Roma face across much of Eastern, Central and Southern Europe. And it is a form of oppression that is beginning to have a direct impact in Britain. Over the past four years, increasing numbers of Roma have appeared in Western European cities, from Berlin to Paris, Stockholm and London. Romania and Bulgaria have the largest Roma populations. No one knows how many of the estimated 90,000 Romanians in Britain are Roma, but it is a fraction of the one million Gypsies who live in France and Germany. Yet this trickle towards Britain could become a torrent come 2014, when the two nations are given full movement rights.

    The small but steady increase of Roma arrivals in Western Europe has already led to a plethora of scare stories from populist media which portray them as endemically criminal communities thriving on begging networks and illegal settlements. Last year, a Swiss magazine ran a cover story about Roma arrivals under the headline: “They come. They Steal. They go.” The cover featured a picture of a young Roma boy holding a gun. It later turned out to be a toy.

    While some Roma are involved in crime (or, more often than not, forcibly trafficked into crime networks by organised syndicates, or pushed there by poverty), the reports rarely stop to ask why so many people are on the move. The simple answer is that Europe’s Roma are trying to escape a new wave of oppression that has swept across Eastern, Central and Southern Europe. Unlike those who migrate for economic reasons, many Roma say they are seizing the opportunity to find a home without harassment. Those who fight for Roma rights make the argument that those who head to the West are as much political refugees as they are economic ones.

    Persecution of Roma, who trace their lineage back to northern India but have lived in Europe for more than 1,500 years, is well documented. Alongside Jews, gays and the disabled, they were targeted by the Nazis for extermination. But while European views on Judaism, homosexuality and disability have come on in leaps and bounds in the past six decades, the attitude towards the Roma still drips with prejudice.

    Nowhere is this more visible than in those nations that are supposedly traditional Roma homelands, where for centuries they were historically viewed as slaves for the region’s landed aristocracies. All across Central and Eastern Europe today, discrimination against Gypsy communities is virulent and rising. The global economic crash hit the region hard and the Roma are an easy target.

    Far-right groups are resurgent in Hungary, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, with attacks on Roma villagers now commonplace. Last summer an off-duty policeman in Slovakia went on the rampage, killing three people from a Gypsy community.

    In Romania the far right has been kept in check, but not for altruistic reasons. “There isn’t really much need for extreme-right groups because you find racism and stereotyping in all the mainstream parties,” explains Marian Mandache, head of Romani Criss, a Bucharest-based group that campaigns for Roma rights. “Roma face hardship, exclusion and discrimination in almost all fields of public life.”

    Last month, a small far-right group in western Romania proposed paying €300 (£254) to any Roma woman who came forward to be sterilised. Unusually, prosecutors opened a case against the group under the country’s little-used hate crime laws. But earlier this week, the idea of forced sterilisations was lent a veneer of mainstream acceptability when the head of the National Liberal Party’s youth wing, Rares Buglea, voiced his support for the idea on Facebook. In Baia Mare, a mining town in Romania’s impoverished north, the mayor has been building walls around Roma areas – to the delight of the other residents.

    Back in the rubbish-dump of Pata Rat, Romeo Greta Petra says he has plans to leave the squalor and discrimination behind him. Standing next to a single bathroom which serves 40 people, he declares that his family has simply had enough. “Just look at the filth in which they threw us,” he says, sucking deeply on a rolled-up cigarette. “Come summer, we’re going to leave. Everyone here just thinks we’re garbage. If I could have the possibility, I would go with my whole family.”

    Pressed for further details about where he might head, he becomes more circumspect. But he explains that if his whole family can’t leave, then he will pin his hopes on his eldest son, who is on the verge of finishing high school. “It’s difficult to get a job at the best of times, but for Roma it is even harder,” he says. “Every parent just wants what is best for their children. That’s normal. I want him to go abroad, at least until he is 30. He can go abroad and save some money. Then he can come back to build a house.”

    In Romania’s sprawling capital, the situation for Roma is equally grim. Bucharest has never been one of Europe’s prettiest cities and it is still renowned for swathes of dilapidated Soviet-style apartment blocks. Roma tend to be concentrated in the worst suburbs, such as Ferentari and Plumbuita, where sewerage and electricity are virtually non-existent.

    Most families tap illegally into the local energy supply, while in Plumbuita, two miles from Bucharest’s commercial centre, asphalt highways give way to muddy tracks fringed by shacks with corrugated-iron roofs.

    Local police accuse Roma groups of being behind much of the crime in Bucharest, a city that still has a significantly lower criminality rate than most Western European capitals. Activists say that while some Roma are pushed towards opportunistic crimes because of the poverty they live in, the majority try to get on with their lives. But the prejudices leave them acutely vulnerable to abuse from the authorities.

    Over the past 10 years, Romani Criss has documented 50 instances in which Roma people have been killed or attacked in police-related incidents. But despite the filing of multiple criminal complaints, no police officer has yet been convicted of killing a Roma. In the past eight months alone, there have been three instances where Roma have been shot and killed by police.

    Daniel Radu, a 22-year-old father of one, was killed after a police chase last June. His family have never spoken to the media before. But standing around a single electric heater in their tumbledown cottage in Tei, north Bucharest, they tell The Independent what happened.

    According to his mother, Garofitsa, Daniel and a friend had been stealing materials from an abandoned building last June to construct a new roof on the family home. While driving back through town on a moped, they encountered a police car and made a break for it. Both Daniel and his friend jumped from a bridge into a lake that runs behind Tei.

    While the two men were stranded in the lake, police fired three shots at them. The third hit Daniel above the eye, killing him instantly. “They could have waited for him to get out of the lake but instead they shot him,” his mother explains. “He was no danger to anyone. If he was guilty of a crime, they should have put him in prison, not killed him.”

    The police have yet to comment publicly on the shooting and say they will not do so until the results of an ongoing investigation are revealed. Romani Criss is helping the family pay for legal representation.”We are worried we won’t get justice,” says Daniel’s older brother, Florea. “But that is all we want, justice.”

    All across the neighbourhood of Tei, locals have stories of police brutality. This week Romani Criss researchers logged an allegation that a man was hospitalised after a beating in a police station. Ionut Covataru, 17, lifts his shirt to reveal a vivid scar from an operation to drain blood from his lungs. His family have filed a complaint and are waiting to hear from prosecutors.

    Analysts believe that the wider EU needs to take a much more active role in persuading the latest members of its expanding community to integrate Roma – and make them feel like there is something to stay for. If they don’t, then Roma will inevitably seize the opportunity to head west.

    Roma: the history of a persecuted people

    Roma originate from India and by the 8th century had begun their long trek to Europe, via Mesopotamia and the near-east. They were probably living in Greece by 1200. They speak a language closely related to Sanskrit.

    By the early 16th century they had reached most parts of Europe, including England and Scotland. Many were initially welcomed for their skills as craftsmen or as Christian pilgrims or penitents but from about 1500 attitudes changed.

    Persecution became commonplace across Europe.

    In Saxony, “gypsy hunts” were treated as public entertainment. In Prussia in 1725 King Friedrich Wilhelm I gave permission for all adult gypsies to be hanged without trial. Up to 500,000 Roma are believed to have been murdered during the Holocaust in Nazi concentration camps, pictured. From the 1970s until 1990 there was a programme of enforced sterilisation of Roma women by doctors in Czechoslovakia.

    An estimated 400,000 live in ghettoes in Bulgaria. In 2009 in Ostrovany, Slovakia, a two-metre wall was erected with public money to cordon off the Roma from the rest of the town. Similar measures were adopted in Michalovce, Lomnika, Trebišov and Prešov.

    An estimated 7 million to 8.5 million Roma live in Europe, with 90,000 to 120,000 estimated to be in the UK.

  2. They do not have a shared homeland or national identity. They are a people who are scattered across the globe and whose origins have always been shrouded in myth and mystery (among other reasons because they have kept no written records of their early history). Many saw them (and continue to do so in many cases) as dirty, thieving and undesirable, others as artistic, romantic and carefree. In France, they are referred to as gitanes, in Spain they are called gitanos, and in Germany, zigeuner.

    There are an estimated 12 million Romani – better known as Gypsies – living worldwide. Most of them (8-10 million) live in Europe, making them the continent’s largest ethnic minority group. So where did they come from?

    A recent genetic analysis of 13 European Gypsy groups confirmed that their ancestors, for reasons not perfectly clear, left India in a single emigration wave some 1,500 or so years ago. “There were already some linguistic studies that gave clues pointing to India and genetic studies too, though without being precise about the where or when,” explained David Comas, leader of the research group that made the discovery.

    So, the legend that the Gypsies hailed from Egypt – which may be simply due to their dark coloring or from tall tales they themselves spread to gullible Europeans – was proven false. (Some purport this belief may have been the origin of the name “Gypsy,” from the Middle English “gypcian,” which was short for “Egipcien”)

    The Gypsies, through their quick wits, penchant for giving themselves fake dukedoms, and/or claiming to be on bogus pilgrimages, managed to gain the protection of kings and popes as they made their way through Europe. After all, no good Christian was going to turn away a traveler with a (phony) title or a (ill-gotten) letter from the Holy Father. By the 1400s, the Gypsies were living throughout France, Germany, Italy and Hungary.

    One can only imagine the impression the Gypsies must have made on the Europeans, who lived very sheltered, monotonous lives within their tiny villages. To encounter a band of dark-skinned traveling people with black eyes and hair, wearing strange clothes and speaking “gibberish” would have been almost akin to an alien visitation for medieval folks.

    In the first documented account of the Gypsies- via a fourteenth century Irish monk, Symon Semeonis- the good minister thought that they must be “the descendants of Cain.” All too quickly, that sort of sentiment would spread, as curiosity turned to contempt.

    The Gypsies would set up camp just outside the towns, and, among other things, the men worked as horse traders and metal workers while the women told fortunes. The problem was that they also depended on the generosity of the local people. When they felt said generosity was insufficient, they would even the score by helping themselves. They gained an often justified reputation as pickpockets and thieves. Many Gypsies were arrested for theft, and some were executed for their crimes.

    Spain became the first country to issue an edict against the Gypsies in 1490, prohibiting their dress, language and customs in an effort to forcibly assimilate them, but it only made them keep a lower profile. France and England enacted expulsion orders in the 1530s, and many countries in central Europe forced the Gypsies into slavery, leaving them no choice but to continue their nomadic existence.

    In the 20th century, the Gypsies faced a much more sinister foe than medieval villagers in the form of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, who decided that all Gypsies must be exterminated. They were accused of many crimes that the Jews were also blamed for, including such things as child abduction and cannibalism. During the war, besides being occasionally rounded up, they were also often simply killed on sight. When World War II was over, an estimated 500,000 to 1,500,000 Gypsies had perished at the hands of the Nazis.

    Even after facing the horror of the Nazi death camps, the Gypsies continued to be marginalized in post-war Europe, and still have to deal with discrimination, exclusion and isolation to this day. European Gypsies are often forced to live in ramshackle settlements, and are denied adequate medical care and employment opportunities due to their ethnicity. Partially because of this, the average Gypsy lifespan is 10-15 years shorter than the overall European average.

    Robert Kushen of the European Roma Rights Centre in Hungary explains how serious the discrimination against Gypsies in Europe really is: “They suffer from forced evictions – and have been targeted recently in both France and Italy, and it seems that in some places, like Romania and Bulgaria, the laws applying to free movement within the European Union don’t quite apply to them in the same way that they apply to other people.”

    His group is reaching out to the European Union to bypass any governments that disregard EU rulings regarding the treatment of Gypsies, so that the policies protecting them can be enforced. The United Nations and other international organizations have also begun putting pressure on the offending nations to rescind their exclusionary policies and allow the Gypsies equal rights. The Gypsies themselves have formed the Roma National Congress to advocate for change and represent their interests.

    So things may finally be looking up for one of the more unique cultures in world history. There’s still a lot of stigma attached to the word “Gypsy,” but when you ponder what other ethnic groups have been responsible for over the past few thousand years, “stones and glass houses” comes to mind.

  3. Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (GRT) are protected under the Equality Act 2010 as a minority ethnic group. They are often misunderstood and experience high levels of prejudice and inequality, and studies have documented issues concerning poor health, isolation and constant fear of eviction.
    Travelling and staying in different locations can mean that they find it harder to access services, particularly those that require an address, such as medical and dental care, postal deliveries, children’s education and steady employment.

    Traditional travelling groups have lived and travelled in Great Britain and Ireland for centuries. They include diverse groups such as Romany Gypsies, Irish Travellers and Scottish Gypsies and Travellers.

    Like other minority ethnic groups Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities have their own languages, traditions and customs that guide their way of life and they are passed on through the generations. Within all groups cultural values are strong with emphasis on the extended family supporting each other.

    It is important to recognise that there can be significant cultural and practical differences between the different groups. The main groups are:

    Romany Gypsies, people who are thought to have originally migrated from India and arrived in the UK around the 16th Century. Romany is the word that Gypsy people in England and Wales apply to themselves hence the term Romany Gypsy
    Scottish Gypsy Travellers, people recognised as a separate ethnic group in Scotland who have much in common with other travellers
    Irish Travellers, a distinct group of people within the Irish community going back over a thousand years
    Roma, the word Roma is used as a catch-all term for European ‘Gypsies’. There are several distinct groups of people who have come from Central and Eastern Europe
    Show People, families with a tradition of living and working in travelling fairgrounds are covered under this heading that also includes people working in circuses.

  4. It’s getting late. It’s 10pm, and under the streetlights near Marble Arch, buses -circle the fountains as a man from Westminster Council is doing his best – as -politely as he is able – to persuade a group of Romanian Gypsies to get the hell out of his neighbourhood.

    I’m sitting watching the official from a grass slope with Marius and Ioanna, two young Roma – to use their proper name – who’ve been -sleeping rough in London for a few months. Ioanna is rather beautiful and wearing a headscarf. She makes money cleaning cafés in the West End, she says, enough to send £50 or £70 a month back to Romania. Marius has been having a tougher time. He came in the winter, after construction work dried up in Milan, and he’s been squatting with another man in an empty house up the road in Marylebone. He is wearing a heavy, white Dolce & Gabbana-style sweater that says “Delicious & Gorgeous” on it. Marius gives long, lyrical shrugs when I ask him questions. “There are good people between us,” he says. “But we are all considered thieves.”

    The man from the council – his name is Nik Ward – has a translator with him, turning his words into Romanian, but he’s enunciating in English anyway, as if by force of -emphasis alone he can break through the separation of -centuries. “We don’t think it’s OK for you to live on the streets,” he says. “Hmm? It’s not good. It’s not good for your bodies. It’s not good for your heads.”

    There are about 30 Gypsies around Marble Arch tonight, and they are standing round with all their junk – the -suitcases, the plastic stools, the beer bottles, the House Of Fraser bags, the KFC wrappers, the -accordion – which has been driving the council crazy for 18 months now. “We must stop you guys from begging and sleeping on the streets, and going into bars,” says Ward. “How are we going to do that?”

    Some of the Roma relent. A few of the older ones, some obviously ill, get into a van to go to a shelter for the night. But the rest just let Ward talk. Marius is eating a McFlurry. Costas, sitting next to him, carefully spits on the grass. Ioanna leans over to me. “Can you help me build a house?” She is 23, pregnant, and wants to have the child in Britain. Ward is still talking. “We can’t help you, until you start paying your taxes…”

    You’ll be seeing a lot more of us in the future. We’re going to beg, do whatever we can to escape (Manix, Romanian Gypsy)
    Courtesy of the ever-expanding European Union, the UK, and London, are finally waking up to one of Europe’s biggest embarrassments: that after the better part of a thousand years, our continent still does not know how to live at peace with its largest ethnic minority. The Roma started to arrive in Greece, mysteriously, from India, some time after the tenth century – the last ancient migration from Asia. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, their population in the EU is estimated at anywhere between six and 12 million people. Everywhere they are impoverished and unemployed; and most of us know next to nothing about them.

    Sure, we’ve had some Gypsies in this country for a long time.

    The first band arrived in 1505. In 1554, they were given a month to leave, or they would face execution. A few dared to stay – even fewer survived – and became the UK’s small traveller community, who number in the tens of thousands today. It’s not been a happy story but with the exception of the odd high-profile eviction, or reality-TV show, it rarely punctures the national imagination either.

  5. That is about to change. The Gypsies around Marble Arch are Romanian, and from -1 January 2014 all Romanian and Bulgarian citizens will be entitled to live and work in the UK. Romania has Europe’s largest population of Roma (confusingly, the words “Roma” and “Romania” have nothing to do with one another): somewhere between two and three million people. The British tabloids, reflecting a fear of another wave of immigration from eastern Europe, have used images of the band in Marble Arch as the first sign of the influx to come. What will happen when the last -barriers to these countries come down?

    The British tabloids have used images of the band of Roma Gypsies in Marble Arch as the first sign of the influx to come, reflecting a fear of another wave of immigration from Eastern Europe
    The truth is that we don’t know. It’s hard enough to predict what the majority of Bulgarians and Romanians are going to do, and the Gypsies are the shadow inside that puzzle. Wary of perceived racism, European -governments and police forces tend not to collect data on particular ethnic groups. The Roma are careful about declaring their -identity, too. Having a high profile has never helped them in the past. Huge numbers were killed during the Holocaust, and in the summer of 2010, President Nicolas Sarkozy was -condemned by the Pope and the UN when he snapped and ordered the bulldozing of at least 50 Roma camps and the deportation of -thousands from the edge of French cities.
    As a result, firm evidence about the Roma is often lost in the broader march of statistics about European nationalities as a whole. Earlier this year, the Home Office -commissioned a 60-page report about the likely impact of Romanians and Bulgarians arriving in the UK after 2014. The section on the Roma, who number around three million in the two -countries, ran to two paragraphs.

    So they are, for most of us, largely abstract people. Until they turn up in your -neighbourhood. On an electric-blue morning, I turn into Bryanston Square, a few streets north of Marble Arch. It’s like the opening of Mrs Dalloway here. White stucco mansions overlook a private, green rectangle of lawn. Removal men are unloading furniture wrapped in brown paper. A woman, with her personal trainer, -stretches under the trees. A taxi driver is asleep in his cab.

    Sharon Walvin manages 40 flats in the streets around the square, working from a -basement office on its northern side. The first she knew about the new Gypsy presence was when a tenant reported that two friends had been mugged walking up the street to supper. That was last autumn. Since then, Walvin’s office has been burgled twice and she’s been dreaming of ways to stop the Roma from climbing into the square’s enclosed garden each night to sleep and shit in the bushes. This morning, two men had to be kicked off the basement steps of number 29. “We all feel very safe here,” says Walvin. “Or we did.” She doesn’t like working late on her own any more, and is afraid to approach the Gypsies when she sees them. “They stand their own,” she says. “I’m sure they could sort me out.”

    Marylebone and Mayfair might be wealthy, but it’s not old-fashioned England. All of Walvin’s tenants are foreign. Her parents came from British Guiana in 1959. People know about immigration here, the trade-offs of hard work and -cultural integration – and the Gypsies in the square are unsettling precisely because they don’t seem interested in that. “They are -different to us,” says Walvin. “They are not here for that reason.” She’s not convinced they are simply desperate either. They look well fed. She thinks they go through the bins, looking for people’s credit-card information to sell. “I hesitate to say this, but they’ve got this sort of feral, -pack-like approach. This is the way they live. This is their life.”

    The police have been watching the Roma on Marble Arch since the very first few arrived, in November 2011. There was talk at the time that they turned up with maps, suggesting that the spot had been carefully chosen. One of Marble Arch’s many advantages is that it gives on to Edgware Road, which is popular with tourists from the Middle East, who find it hard not to give to begging Muslims. (The Roma women disguise themselves with headscarves.) Ever since, officers have wondered about the level of organisation within the group, and whether it is connected with more serious crimes, such as human trafficking or childprostitution. Hierarchical networks of beggars and street thieves – run by Gypsies, for Gypsies – have been on the rise in big European cities for the last decade: in Rome, in Milan, in Paris, in Madrid. London is a logical next target.

    Having spent day after day with the Gypsies this summer, I find they are never more than a few hours from their next visit from the police or their next arrest for begging. Marius calls out the only English words he knows – “Relax!” and “Hello, boys!” – as the officers pull on blue latex gloves and start photographing and going through the group’s possessions. Romanian nationals (the numbers are not broken down by ethnicity) were responsible for half the begging and a third of the pickpocket -offences in London last year, and one afternoon, as he searches the group, a plain-clothes cop says to me, “It’s like anything: you’ve got your foot -soldiers and then your guys on top. If you prove yourself, you move up.

    That’s how it works.”

    Chief inspector Louise Puddefoot, who runs Operation Chefornak, the Metropolitan Police’s attempt to get a handle on the Roma in the West End, says that after the best part of two years, her team is still trying to figure out exactly what they’re up against.

    There can be dozens of small groups of Gypsies on Oxford Street and in Mayfair and Marylebone on any given day. Some commute in from Walthamstow and Redbridge to beg and run scams. It’s not clear whether they are linked to the group at Marble Arch, whether some of the Roma are here against their will, or if anyone is in charge. “We don’t know, is the answer,” says Puddefoot, in her office on Savile Row. “The money is going somewhere, put it that way. When people get arrested, it’s very rare that we find the proceeds of their day’s work.”

    When I ask the Roma myself, the stories never add up. The men and women at Marble Arch always insist they met each other -coincidentally in London, but almost all of them turn out to be from the same, relatively small corner of northeastern Romania, around a city called Botosani. They say they have no money, but the police impounded £3,000 from the group on 11 April this year. Their explanations for the money are vague: Marius says the cash was wired from Romania, to pay for tickets home, and produces a receipt from a money transfer shop in Botosani for £1,190. But it is dated 24 January 2013, before he turned up in London, and before the group are supposed to have met each other.

    What is clear is that the people sleeping rough and begging in one of Britain’s richest -neighbourhoods are marked by the poverty and the exclusion of the lives they have lived. They say they want jobs and one evening I ask four Roma girls in their early twenties, and a burly young man, called Florin, about their hopes for their new lives in the UK. They are excited, and could be immigrants from -anywhere in the world, but only one in four Roma children finish school in Romania, and their ambitions turn out to be strangely simple. Florin wants to sweep the streets. The girls want to clean hotels. “Don’t give me a computer,” one says. “I’ll hurt myself.”

    Intrigued yet also somewhat suspicious, that night I ask Marius if I can go back to Romania and meet his family in Botosani. He gives one of his shrugs. He says he’s thinking of giving up on London anyway. “We don’t have anything to hide,” he says. “We don’t have a palace.” He gives me his mother’s phone number, and goes to find somewhere to sleep.

    We find Marius’ mother and brother on the side of the road.

    They’ve come down to the middle of Hlipiceni, a village on the edge of the hills about 30 miles southeast of Botosani, to flag down the car. I think Iliana, Marius’ mother, is in her mid-fifties, until I find out she is 39. Daniel, meanwhile, is 17 and dressed for a day out at a Monte-Carlo beach club: crisp shorts, V-neck golf sweater, flat cap, white loafers. It’s just after three o’clock on a weekday afternoon in one of the poorest parts of rural Romania. Geese are walking down the middle of the road.

    Marius’ family live in a two-room house perched on a small, triangular plot. It is tidy, and painted pink and yellow. The only trace of the family’s old Gypsy life – they were travelling musicians a couple of generations back – are a few images of bears on blankets, and a photograph of Marius’ dead father, laid out in his fedora. When communism arrived in 1945, like most Romanian Roma, they became farm labourers and worked in the local collective. Since 1991, they have eked out a living as hired hands, growing a few onions in the garden. Sometimes, Daniel makes 15-20 Romanian Lei (about £3 or £4) unloading a lorry in the village, but every piece of family expenditure is an obstacle. It’s summer, and they are wondering how they will get together 300 Lei (about £60) to buy wood for winter. “It is impossible for us,” says Iliana. “There are days when we don’t have money for bread.” She speaks quietly. Every few minutes, she is drowned out by a horse and cart going past on the road.

  6. At times it seems like the loudest thing in the room is the pregnant belly of Daniel’s 15-year-old wife, Maria. Another mouth to feed. Daniel will go on the road soon, like his brother. “It is our only chance,” says Maria. “He cannot help me from here.”

    Hierarchical networks of beggars and street thieves – run by Gypsies, for Gypsies – have been on the rise in big European cities for the last decade. London is a logical next target
    A lot of Romanians are poor. The average income is less than £6,000 per year, and closer to £4,000 in places such as Botosani.

    Across the country, however, Gypsies tend to be even poorer than their neighbours. “Where a Romanian is nearly dead,” as the saying goes, “a Roma will be already burned.”

    People disagree about whether Gypsies really have different needs to the rest of the population, though. Marking them out for special treatment can just lead to other problems. Marius’ family are convinced, however, that their -situation is a result of their history. Some of the oldest records of the Roma in Romania are from near Botosani, from the 14th century. (The name “Romania”, by the way, comes from the Romans. “Roma” probably comes from the “Rom” or “Dom”, a travelling underclass in India.) The strange wanderers from Asia were slaves for five centuries in Romania, traded between monasteries and local lords like pots and pans: a girl for two copper bowls; a lame one for a jar of honey.

    When they were freed, in 1863, the Gypsies of eastern Europe began their second great migration, after their explorations of the Middle Ages, before being settled under communism. Most Roma in Romania refer to this period fondly now. They had houses, and jobs.

    In the chaos of the Nineties, though, they slipped back to the bottom of the pile. Farms and businesses that had been seized by the state reverted to their former private owners, and Gypsies were squeezed out again. “The land was given back to the people,” says Iliana. “We have nothing.”

    Iliana is sick of being told that Gypsies should try harder to join mainstream society. The family have simply never had the money. Marius left school after two years, at the age of eight;

    Daniel at 13. “What are my options?” she asks. “People think we should change, but into what?” Iliana’s main concern, she says, is that her house is slipping on its foundations, year by year, into the road below.

    Marius, too, preys on her mind. “I am not sure how he is coping,” she says. Unlike when he was in Italy, Marius has not been able to send any money home since he arrived in the UK. But Iliana denies strongly that he is part of an organised begging or criminal enterprise. “I told him, ‘Just go to beg, do whatever you can to make a living,'” says Iliana. “‘But don’t steal. We are not that kind of people.'”

    It’s not as if there isn’t a plan to help the Roma in eastern Europe. In 2002, the United Nations Development Programme, which assists some of the poorest people on earth, found that, in terms of illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition, “most of the region’s Roma endure living conditions closer to those of sub-Saharan Africa than to Europe”. Since then, more than €25bn (£21bn) has been made available by the EU to improve their lives.

    The problem is that nothing has changed. In Romania, around a decade on, according to almost every social measurement you can possibly think of – employment, education, income, access to the internet, size of house, frequency of rubbish collection, life expectancy, poverty – Gypsies are worse off. Despite the efforts of international organisations and Roma charities, there is a stubborn, perceptible gap between the two populations.

    I am struck, talking to Romanian officials, by how worn out they seem by the problem. Part of that is down to a general, national malaise. Romania has had a tough time during the -economic crisis.

    But it is also a country that is emptying itself. Between three to four million Romanians, out of what used to be a population of 22 million, are currently working abroad. (That would be the equivalent of the emigration of ten million people from the UK.) “Everybody who stays is thinking, ‘We are the last stupids that remain here,'” a Romanian journalist tells me. “All the clevers went out.” In that context, addressing even the most basic social questions can seem overwhelming. Of the €4.5bn (£3.8bn) that Romania has received from the EU in the last six years to help develop the country in all areas, around 90 per cent remains unspent.

    And then there are the bloody Gypsies. I rarely get to ask more than a question or two before Romanian officials – mayors, teachers, police officers, councillors – launch into lectures about the Roma “mentality” and how impossible they are to deal with. “I cannot say what they are planning,” said the sub–prefect of Botosani, Sebastian Tocariu. “Maybe tomorrow they will go to New York!” There is their dishonesty; their dependency on state hand-outs; their uncontrollable nomadism (a -phenomenon which I found strange to hear about in a country where almost everyone is thinking of moving abroad). But what I’m hearing, I am assured, is not racism. “If we talk bad about them, it’s like when you talk about someone who is not as smart as you,” a polite female police inspector in Bucharest tries to explain to me one day. “We don’t necessarily discriminate against them. You see the difference?

    Because they are ours… It is like, ‘They are ours!’ We don’t see them as a completely different kind. And not all of them are bad.”

    After a while, I get the impression of two communities giving up on each other. I go and see Viorel Achim, a Romanian historian who has studied the Roma’s seven centuries in the country. He says he used to be more -optimistic, and dreamt of the rise of a Gypsy middle class, who would set standards of education and prosperity that the rest of their people would follow. “Now,” he said, “I think not.” Instead, Achim says, the opening borders of the EU are the answer, a way to balance the relative concentration of Roma in eastern Europe, and their scarcity in countries to the north and west. They will fan out across the continent. “This is the third great migration,” he says, referring to the waves of Gypsy movement in the 15th and 19th centuries, “and this is just the beginning.”

    I hear much the same thing, albeit more crudely, in Botosani.

    Talking about the Gypsies in Park Lane one day, a councillor in the city basically wishes them good riddance. “This is your time to know them,” she says.

    That evening I go to a tower block in a neighbourhood of the city known as the Parcul Tineretului, which has become, in recent years, a Roma ghetto. As soon as we get out of the car, we are surrounded by people calling out the names of the places they have been in Europe: Polonia! Germania! Franta! Spania! Italia! There are broken windows and a dirty patch of ground where children are playing. It is getting dark, and we go upstairs with a Roma man called Manix, who is in charge of the building. There are no lights in the corridors, which smell of excrement. If he didn’t have his job, Manix says, he’d already be in London. The room fills up with Gypsies of all ages to watch us talk. “You are going to be seeing a lot more of us in the future,” says Manix. “We’re going to beg, do whatever we can. Anything to escape.”

    There are points of light; of course there are. One night in Bucharest I sit down with Damian Draghici, who is Romania’s most famous Gypsy, and now the prime minister’s advisor on Roma affairs. Draghici made it big as a -musician, playing jazz in the US on the pan flute, a beloved instrument in Romania. He was courted for years by successive governments, looking to put a presentable face on their Roma policies, until last June, when he decided to cast his lot in with Victor Ponta, the country’s 41-year-old, energetic new leader. Draghici is a senator now, and he turned up shaven-headed in a sharp blue suit. He is also on the warpath.

    Draghici spent his first six months in office visiting 162 projects that were supposed to be helping Gypsies, and tore up Romania’s national Roma strategy in the process. Some of his fiercest -criticisms have been for Roma-run NGOs, which have swallowed up tens of millions of euros in EU funds, often with few discernible results. “That was the worst for me,” he says. “But the money, rather than arriving to the grass roots, was getting spent on human resources: buying a nice building, getting nice computers, getting nice cars, getting nice salaries… If you want to run a business, open a supermarket. I don’t care.”

    Draghici’s new plan relies on at least some of Romania’s Gypsies having the nerve to -confront each other about knotted, painful questions within their community. “You know where I first felt discriminated?” Draghici asks me. “In my house! When I was six years old. The first time I went to school, they said, ‘Be careful, because you are not like them. You are not like the gadje [non-Roma]. You are a Roma. You are more stupid. You are an idiot…’ That is the biggest problem. The Roma impose on themselves the inferiority complex.” I hear that phrase so many times talking about the Roma in Romania, and it describes the young men and women, and their stunted dreams, on Marble Arch. “I think the worst sickness, the cancer of the soul, is getting the inferiority complex,” said Draghici. “It won’t let you do anything, ever.”

  7. Before he leaves, Draghici tells me about a Roma mayor in the south of Romania, called Mihai Ioana, who is trying to stop Gypsies from deserting his district to go off to the streets of Europe to beg and steal. It is a difficult thing to do, and Draghici respects him for it. “The man who risks everything, risks everything,” he said. “The man who doesn’t take a chance, doesn’t have a chance.”

    The next day we drive out of Bucharest to meet him.

    There are more Gypsies in Romania’s southern counties, including many of the country’s most prosperous clans and families. On the way to Ioana’s village of Gradinari, we pass some of their pagoda-like mansions: architectural fantasias with blue roofs, lining the road. Romania’s rich Roma are an object of fascination for everyone, gadje and Gypsy. Some of them have transformed traditional Roma crafts – such as coppersmithing, or horse trading – into successful, 21st-century businesses, such as metal trading, or car dealerships. But there is a lot of organised crime as well, in networks that operate across Europe: human and drug trafficking, credit-card fraud. When we get to Ioana’s rather large, brand-new mayor’s office, we find him on his own. There is a catalogue for ploughs and tractors on his desk.

    What will happen when the last barriers to Great Britain come down? The truth is that we don’t know “It’s a dream for the Roma kids to get out of here,” says Ioana. “And that’s not good for the people here and the countries they are going to.” The mayor is a soft, approachable man in his fifties.
    What he describes reminds me of Hlipiceni, and what I heard from Marius’ family. It doesn’t add up for the Gypsies in his district to stay. While most of the Romanians have at least some land that they owned, or some education, most of the Roma live as day labourers, earning 30 to 40 Romanian Lei (£6-£8) per day. In 2007, when Romania joined the EU, the Gypsies started to leave.

    For the first time, I hear a Roma man willing to describe the system that has evolved to help them do it. Without funds or sufficient qualifications – even literacy, in many cases – to access the normal routes for Romanian migrants, Gypsies have come to rely on local camatar (money lenders) and “mules” to get them across Europe. There’s nothing fancy about it. A mule might just be a guy with a car. But the deals tend to be long-term.

    Roma normally travel for free out of Romania, with their travel – a few hundred euros, the interest ticking away – to be paid back over a number of years. Once they get to Spain or Italy or Germany, the most popular destinations until recently, the Roma seek the protection of a local boss, a figure that Ioana calls the seful de platz, literally “chief of the square”. For a cut of everything they make, known as “taxes”, the seful de platz sorts them out with a job, a place to stay, sometimes even food to eat. More often than not, though, this is just a place to beg. “They are ashamed,” says Ioana. “They come back and say that they worked. No one admits that they beg.”

    The mayor is desperate to come up with ways to stop the Roma from leaving his district. With just a bit of investment from the government – some new agricultural machinery, for example – he believes that wages in the village might improve. (Gradinari is famous for its cabbages.) But in the meantime, the local economy is in a downward spiral. There is not enough -manpower, quality is going down. Ioana is also -spending more of his time helping his constituents deal with money lenders, and other unhappy knock-on effects of their adventures in Europe.

    We leave his office and go down the road to Gradinari’s only café. A red pool table sits under a thin canopy of leaves. It’s the end of the working day, and around a dozen Roma have gathered there, their hands dirty from the fields. They have all been abroad in Europe at one time or another in recent years, and Ioana asks them, point blank, in turn, “Did you beg? Did you beg?” “Yes,” each replies. “Did you beg?” “Yes.” He goes round the whole group, and the men volunteer a few details of their lives abroad. A tall Roma man in a black jumper ended up paying a mule €2,000 (£1,690) for a ride to Germany. A man who worked on a farm outside Milan paid a cut of his salary to the local seful de platz for five years. A man who begged for two years in Sardinia, called Petruscu, -suddenly drops to his knees, inclines his head and puts his hand out, his body shaped by muscle memory. “This is hard work,” he says. “I did this for ten or 12 hours a day.”

    I ask if it is really necessary to migrate in such an expensive and punishing way. “You have to pay. You know from the outset. You know from before you go away,” says a man called Stoian, who has begged in Madrid, and Foggia in Italy. “If I had the money to go on the bus on my own I would,” says Petrescu. “But even if I had, I would still have to affiliate myself with a platz.

    Everywhere is controlled.” When I tell the men about the Gypsies around Marble Arch, their immediate reaction is of slight dismay.

    London is, without question, the next destination for the Gypsies in Gradinari, and this sounds like a good platz. But they figure it must be controlled by Roma they have no connection with. “Right now, in England, this thing is still very much at the beginning, so there is competition for the better places,” explains Stoian. “We would only go if we already knew somebody there, otherwise it is just impossible.”

  8. It’s a dream for Roma kids to get out of here. And that’s not good for the countries they are going to (Roma Mayor Mihai Ioana)
    In the end, we are just talking about economics. The push and pull of money. The men reckon a day of begging in a wealthy European city could be bring in about €40 (£34) – four times what they get for a day’s work in the cabbage fields – maybe more in London. Sure, they have been told some crazy things about Britain.

    There is a rumour that if they turn up with their families, they will get €2,500 (£2,112) in benefits straight away to get them started. (Not true.) But even if that isn’t the case – and even if they have to pay way over the odds to get here; and even if they have loan sharks on their backs wherever they end up; and even if a little cut of what they make goes to a seful and he hangs over them for years – the amazing thing is that it still, just about, just enough, beats staying where they were. It’s worth a shot. “It might be weird,” says a handsome Rom called Vijay, “but that’s why we’re going.”

    The financial logic is what makes Mayor Ioana’s task – the campaign to fight the third great Gypsy migration – so difficult.

    It’s like holding back the wind. On my last day in Romania, I go to a shelter, in the far western city of Timisoara, that intervenes in cases of human trafficking. For the last three years, the shelter, which is run by a charity called Generatie Tanara Romania, has had a contract with the French government, trying to assist Gypsies – often -children – who have been caught up in begging and prostitution rings against their will. But it is rarely, if ever, a simple matter, finding the line between the freedom to move and the -compulsion to do so. What sounds and looks like organised crime to us is still a way to change your life. Do Marius and his brother want to leave their mother, and her house falling into the road?

    Would the Gypsies of Gradinari prefer to grow cabbages? Is it even up to them? “Migration, trafficking, for them maybe it is the same thing,” says Francisc Csizmarik, one of the case workers at the shelter.

    It is raining gently, but Csizmarik wants to take us out for a short drive. Within a minute or two, we are passing the astonishing mansions of Timisoara’s rich Roma. Csizmarik used to be an investigative journalist, and as we go past each house – the alarmed fences, the columned facades, the yellow, Gypsy châteaux – he calls out, “This from begging. This from smuggling. This from doing stuff with cars.” These are the rewards of the camatars, the biggest seful de platz. Csizmarik explains that even when the shelter does manage to persuade Gypsies that they might have been trafficked, or exploited, it is impossible to get them to testify against their persecutors. We drive past, our eyes drawn to the foreign licence plates. Germany.

    Italy. A British blue Mercedes C-Class. “These guys have nothing to do with the poor Gypsies. They just exploit them,” says Csizmarik.

    We pause outside yet another Scarface pile. “Do you think they are discriminated?” He asks from the front seat. “Who is discriminated here?”

    It is a perfect summer evening, the last time I stop by to talk to the Gypsies in Mayfair. They are gathered on Park Lane, in the central reservation, a cluster of about 50 by now, under the plane trees. Among the Gypsies, a Roma man is lying on his back, looking up the sky, playing a simple song on the accordion. Marius is there. The police are still giving the group a hard time, he says.

    He is still thinking of leaving. But I notice that Marius has a summer outfit now. The Dolce & Gabbana-style sweater is gone.

    Now he is wearing chinos, espadrilles and a blue velvet jacket. He has a bottle of shower gel in his pocket. He’s also been joined by a friend from Hlipiceni, who smiles and gives his name as Vasil.

    It is clear that something has changed. I have come too many times, asked too many -questions. Ioanna, in particular, is hostile now and accuses me of spying. Perhaps a dozen Roma come and stand around. No one is aggressive, but no one wants to talk either. I remember a phrase that one of the police officers used. “The shutters come down.” Over the heads of the group, I notice two better-dressed Roma men, who I have not seen before, approach one of the elders from Botosani. They talk for a minute, and then disappear into the London rush hour. I ask Marius if there was a seful de platz in Marble Arch, and whether I can meet him.

    His eyes never waver. “We don’t have anything like that here.”

  9. A short history of Irish Travellers

    Europe is home to 10-12 million Roma, yet many Europeans are unable to answer the basic question, “Who are the Roma?” The remarkable history of Gypsies, Roma, and Travellers in Europe, beginning over 1,000 years ago, tells a story of diversity, creativity, and survival.

    The Romani, also known as Roma, are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group, originally from North-West India, traditionally nomadic itinerants living mostly in Europe, and diaspora populations in the Americas, since their migration from the Indian subcontinent about a millenium ago. Watch to know more about them.

    King of the Gypsies, WW2, Roma People, Kwiek Family, Gypsies Holocaust, Romani Holocause, Romani WW2, Gypsy nation, Romani Nation, History of the Romani, History of the Gypsies.
    Plans to Create a Country for the Romani | King of the Gypsies, WW2, Roma People

    The Poorest of the Poor – On the Edge of Europe

    Dale Farm in England is the largest Travellers’ site in Europe. For ten years, fifty families have illegally occupied green belt land they own, but are not supposed to live on. For ten years, the local council has been trying to evict them, but only now – after a bitter campaign that has gone all the way to the House of Lords – is the climax to this battle in sight.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNUYGRn3W9Q

  10. At the front of the queue in the post office near London’s Hyde Park on a Monday morning, the gipsy couple count out £800 in cash to send to Romania.

    It’s their haul from a weekend’s begging outside the shops of famous Oxford Street and it has certainly been worth it.

    The Daily Mail watched as Petru and Ancuta Neagu, aged 29 and 25, filled out the MoneyGram forms to transfer the money to their home city of Iasi in eastern Romania, where their four children, aged between one and seven, live.

    Soon there will be another mouth to feed, for Ancuta will give birth to a fifth baby next spring.

    Within half an hour of sending the cash to Ancuta’s mother, who is looking after her grandchildren, Petru was out begging again. He sat on the pavement at the entrance to Selfridges food hall, while Ancuta went shopping at Sainsbury’s for the couple’s lunch.

    With his hand out, Petru called out to passers-by and, occasionally, waved – incongruously – a pink walking stick in the air as if to show he had difficulty walking.

    Yet nothing could be further from the truth. At noon he got up and – showing no sign of a limp – met up with Ancuta. The couple then walked to Hyde Park, a hundred yards away, for a picnic on the grass.

    It was there we caught up with the couple, who said they had only been in Britain for two days after flying in on a low-cost £38 flight to Luton.

    They posed for photographs, explaining that it was expensive to keep the children, and that they had no other way of making a living apart from begging.

    When I offered Ancuta £10 to send to her family, she took it but said sniffily, through a Romanian translator: ‘It is not even enough money to pay the MoneyGram fee. Have you got more?

    ‘My children are hungry and I have to live with my mother who is blind. There is no work for us gipsies in Iasi and we have nothing.’

    When I suggested that begging in London was rather lucrative compared with working in Romania with an average monthly wage of £176, she responded glibly: ‘It is very hard for us. We have to sit outside all day, and the police come and chase us away.’

    Then she added deceptively: ‘We only make a few pounds a day.’

    When I asked where she kept her and her husband’s clothes, she pointed to a bank of telephone boxes at the side of Hyde Park which were full of prams, suitcases and other paraphernalia belonging to them and other Roma who beg there.

    It means they do not have to find accommodation, but sleep anywhere they can at night, including a pavement outside a nearby primary school, which has now turned on its water sprinklers (designed to clean the pavements outside) in the small hours to stop the gipsies sleeping there.

    The school has put up signs, in Romanian, to warn them they are in danger of getting drenched.

    Petru and Ancuta may, however, have difficulty in reading them as the school translated them into Romanian from English using Google.
    Our translator said that the message was not in clear Romanian, and that anyway most of the Roma are illiterate.

    However, this couple, with one of their friends, did not have much trouble filling in the forms at the Post Office.

    Ancuta explained, pulling her red jacket over her swollen stomach as we waved goodbye: ‘We know how to send money back because that is why we’re here begging.

    ‘If we couldn’t do that, there would not be any point in being here.’

    As for their plans for the future, Ancuta said they would return to Romania in a few days when they had made ‘enough money’.

    She did not rule out the possibility of returning in the New Year as the stores get crowded with shoppers who have plenty of cash and are full of festive spirit. ‘It is a good time for us to come to Britain begging,’ she said.

  11. Gypsy Roma and Traveller people belong to minority ethnic groups that have contributed to British society for centuries. Their distinctive way of life and traditions manifest themselves in nomadism, the centrality of their extended family, unique languages and entrepreneurial economy. It is reported that there are around 300,000 Travellers in the UK and they are one of the most disadvantaged groups. The real population may be different as some members of these communities do not participate in the census.

    The Traveller Movement works predominantly with ethnic Gypsy, Roma, and Irish Traveller Communities.

    Irish Travellers and Romany Gypsies
    Irish Travellers

    Traditionally, Irish Travellers are a nomadic group of people from Ireland but have a separate identity, heritage and culture to the community in general. An Irish Traveller presence can be traced back to 12th century Ireland, with migrations to Great Britain in the early 19th century. The Irish Traveller community is categorised as an ethnic minority group under the Race Relations Act, 1976 (amended 2000); the Human Rights Act 1998; and the Equality Act 2010. Some Travellers of Irish heritage identify as Pavee or Minceir, which are words from the Irish Traveller language, Shelta.

    Romany Gypsies

    Romany Gypsies have been in Britain since at least 1515 after migrating from continental Europe during the Roma migration from India. The term Gypsy comes from “Egyptian” which is what the settled population perceived them to be because of their dark complexion. In reality, linguistic analysis of the Romani language proves that Romany Gypsies, like the European Roma, originally came from Northern India, probably around the 12th century. French Manush Gypsies have a similar origin and culture to Romany Gypsies.

    There are other groups of Travellers who may travel through Britain, such as Scottish Travellers, Welsh Travellers and English Travellers, many of whom can trace a nomadic heritage back for many generations and who may have married into or outside of more traditional Irish Traveller and Romany Gypsy families. There were already indigenous nomadic people in Britain when the Romany Gypsies first arrived hundreds of years ago and the different cultures/ethnicities have to some extent merged.

    Number of Gypsies and Travellers in Britain

    This year, the 2021 Census included a “Roma” category for the first time, following in the footsteps of the 2011 Census which included a “Gypsy and Irish Traveller” category. The 2021 Census statistics have not yet been released but the 2011 Census put the combined Gypsy and Irish Traveller population in England and Wales as 57,680. This was recognised by many as an underestimate for various reasons. For instance, it varies greatly with data collected locally such as from the Gypsy Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessments, which total the Traveller population at just over 120,000, according to our research.

    Other academic estimates of the combined Gypsy, Irish Traveller and other Traveller population range from 120,000 to 300,000. Ethnic monitoring data of the Gypsy Traveller population is rarely collected by key service providers in health, employment, planning and criminal justice.

    Where Gypsies and Travellers Live

    Although most Gypsies and Travellers see travelling as part of their identity, they can choose to live in different ways including:

    moving regularly around the country from site to site and being ‘on the road’
    living permanently in caravans or mobile homes, on sites provided by the council, or on private sites
    living in settled accommodation during winter or school term-time, travelling during the summer months
    living in ‘bricks and mortar’ housing, settled together, but still retaining a strong commitment to Gypsy/Traveller culture and traditions
    Currently, their nomadic life is being threatened by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, that is currently being deliberated in Parliament, To find out more or get involved with opposing this bill, please visit here

    Language

    Although Travellers speak English in most situations, they often speak to each other in their own language; for Irish Travellers this is called Cant or Gammon* and Gypsies speak Romani, which is the only indigenous language in the UK with Indic roots.

    *Sometimes referred to as “Shelta” by linguists and academics

  12. Differences Between Gypsies, Travellers, and Roma

    Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are often categorised together under the “Roma” definition in Europe and under the acronym “GRT” in Britain. These communities and other nomadic groups, such as Scottish and English Travellers, Show People and New Travellers, share a number of characteristics in common: the importance of family and/or community networks; the nomadic way of life, a tendency toward self-employment, experience of disadvantage and having the poorest health outcomes in the United Kingdom.

    The Roma communities also originated from India from around the 10th/ 12th centuries and have historically faced persecution, including slavery and genocide. They are still marginalised and ghettoised in many Eastern European countries (Greece, Bulgaria, Romania etc) where they are often the largest and most visible ethnic minority group, sometimes making up 10% of the total population. However, ‘Roma’ is a political term and a self-identification of many Roma activists. In reality, European Roma populations are made up of various subgroups, some with their own form of Romani, who often identify as that group rather than by the all-encompassing Roma identity.

    Travellers and Roma each have very different customs, religion, language and heritage. For instance, Gypsies are said to have originated in India and the Romani language (also spoken by Roma) is considered to consist of at least seven varieties, each a language in their own right.

    Values and Culture of GRT Communities

    Family, extended family bonds and networks are very important to the Gypsy and Traveller way of life, as is a distinct identity from the settled ‘Gorja’ or ‘country’ population. Family anniversaries, births, weddings and funerals are usually marked by extended family or community gatherings with strong religious ceremonial content. Gypsies and Travellers generally marry young and respect their older generation. Contrary to frequent media depiction, Traveller communities value cleanliness and tidiness.

    Many Irish Travellers are practising Catholics, while some Gypsies and Travellers are part of a growing Christian Evangelical movement.

    Gypsy and Traveller culture has always adapted to survive and continues to do so today. Rapid economic change, recession and the gradual dismantling of the ‘grey’ economy have driven many Gypsy and Traveller families into hard times. The criminalisation of ‘travelling’ and the dire shortage of authorised private or council sites have added to this. Some Travellers describe the effect that this is having as “a crisis in the community”. A study in Ireland put the suicide rate of Irish Traveller men as 3-5 times higher than the wider population. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the same phenomenon is happening amongst Traveller communities in the UK.

    Gypsies and Travellers are also adapting to new ways, as they have always done. Most of the younger generation and some of the older generation use social network platforms to stay in touch and there is a growing recognition that reading and writing are useful tools to have. Many Gypsies and Travellers utilise their often remarkable array of skills and trades as part of the formal economy. Some Gypsies and Travellers, many supported by their families, are entering further and higher education and becoming solicitors, teachers, accountants, journalists and other professionals.

    There have always been successful Gypsy and Traveller businesses, some of which are household names within their sectors, although the ethnicity of the owners is often concealed. Gypsies and Travellers have always been represented in the fields of sport and entertainment.

    How Gypsies and Travellers Are Disadvantaged
    The Traveller, Gypsy, and Roma communities are widely considered to be among the most socially excluded communities in the UK. They have a much lower life expectancy than the general population, with Traveller men and women living 10-12 years less than the wider population.

    Travellers have higher rates of infant mortality, maternal death and stillbirths than the general population. They experience racist sentiment in the media and elsewhere, which would be socially unacceptable if directed at any other minority community. Ofsted consider young Travellers to be one of the groups most at risk of low attainment in education.

    Government services rarely include Traveller views in the planning and delivery of services.

    In recent years, there has been increased political networking between the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller activists and campaign organisations.

    • Will Brexit get rid of these gippos or are we stuck with them? come take a look at birmingham and its surrounding areas.. you will struggle to spot an english person. the country is fucked – we just dont realise it yet

  13. Was your ancestor a Gypsy?

    Is there a story in your family that one of your ancestors was a Romany Gypsy? Or have you come across people in your own research that look as though they may led a travelling lifestyle? If so, how can you establish a firm connection with a Gypsy family?

    Not everyone described as a traveller, vagrant or hawker in historic records was a Gypsy, but many were. By gathering other types of information about a person or a family, it may be possible to confirm that you have Gypsy blood.

    There are four main characteristics to look out for in an individual:

    Typical Romany surname: common ones include Cooper, Smith, Lee, Boswell, Lovell, Doe, Wood, Young and Heron. But take a look at our Famous Families books for many more examples.
    Typical Romany occupation: descriptions such as hawker, licensed hawker, pedlar, basket maker, mat maker, beehive maker, brush maker, chair bottomer, sieve bottomer, tinker, tinman, razor grinder, knife grinder,dealer, general dealer, marine store dealer, wardrobe dealer, peg maker, umbrella mender, chimney sweep, horse dealer, marine store dealer, general dealer or Egyptian.
    Evidence of mobility: for example, a description in a document such as tent dweller, van dweller, stroller, itinerant or of no fixed abode. Or, in a census return, a different place of birth for each child.
    Unusual forename: Romany parents often gave their children names that aren’t generally found in the settled community. Female examples include Anselina, Athalia, Britannia, Cinderella, Clementina, Dotia, Gentilia, Lementeni, Sabina, Tryphena, Urania, Fairnette, Freedom, Mizelli, Ocean, Reservoir, Sinfai, Unity and Vancy. Male examples include Elijah, Goliath, Hezekiah, Nehemiah, Noah, Sampson, Shadrack, Amberline, Belcher, Dangerfield, Gilderoy, Liberty, Major, Nelson, Neptune, Silvanus and Vandlo. You will, however, also find some British Gypsies with more familiar forenames such as John, Mary, Elizabeth and William.

  14. I am going to reopen the board and keep only the posts that have an education value. I might be biased in choices ( I decide what fits my narrative ). Thank you for your replies – I am learning too. Too bad that UKIP and Tories sympathisers and the pro-Brexit chums took over the discussions.

  15. Țigan, zingari, zigeuner, tsyganskiy, cigány, çingene – în majoritatea limbilor de pe continentul european (chiar şi în limba turcă), cuvântul are aceaşi etimologie. Nu e atât de complicat şi misterios cum pretinde multă lume, de fapt e foarte simplu. Etimologia e clară, toate au o singură rădăcină, cuvânt din greaca veche, Ἀθίγγανοι (Athinganoi sau Athingani), o sectă din creştinismul timpuriu, adeptă a Monarhianismului. Termen care la rândul său se traduce prin „de neatins, intangibil, păgân, impur”, denotând statutul de sectă eretică. Odată ajunși în Imperiul Bizantin, majoritatea romilor au fost considerați membri ai acestor secte, termenul devenind universal pentru orice fel de erezie de la normele creștinității institutionalizate.

    În România, datorită influenței bizantine, termenul a intrat în circulație relativ ușor. La 1385, cuvântul apare ca atestare în schimbul de sclavi între Principatele Române. Interesant e faptul că termenul „țigan”, la momentul acela, nu desemna neapărat o etnie, ci, mai degrabă, statutul de sclavi al romilor și al altor etnii înrobite. Ulterior, chiar până recent, unele variante din DEX defineau termenul țigan ca pe o „persoană cu un comportament răutăcios”.

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