Last year, the French government drew in controversy when it decided to deport several dozen Roma gypsies back to Romania despite the travellers’ rights to move freely within the EU.The move drew condemnation from Amnesty International and was branded by many as a despicable xenophobic act.
However, one curious element was that the Romanian president, Traian Basescu understood France’s actions.
In fact, he even offered to help.
It signaled something; the Roma, and travelling gypsies in general, were becoming a common European enemy.
Fast forward to today. The New York Times has just reported that anti-Roma riots are spreading across Bulgaria. In response to the killing of a man by a minibus whose driver is linked to a Roma crime boss, rioting has spread to 20 cities nationwide.
Police are guarding the entrances to Roma villages and the Bulgarian government has issued orders to arrest anyone seen inciting racial hatred. Over 125 people were arrested during the weekend.
But, this is not an isolated incident of action against the Roma or travellers.
Far-right supporters have been embarking upon their own tirade against the Roma in the Czech Republic for several weeks. Spiegel Online reports that neo-Nazi’s recently marched to the northern district of Šluknovský výbžek in Bohemia to confront the Roma. Bloody riots followed. Molotov cocktails were thrown at Roma homes, some of which were housing small children.
Not that the Roma were completely blameless. Spiegel also reported an uptake in crime during August following the Roma’s arrival in the region. The publication also recalled an incident when a bar was robbed by machete wielding travellers.
Other recent episodes include the rounding up of Roma seen this week in France. The French government said once again that it would consider deporting those who could not demonstrate they had a means of supporting themselves.
Even in the UK, the recent action taken against the residents of Dale Farm (who are Irish, not Roma) appears to be part of a European-wide campaign to deal with a continent-spanning problem.
But, none of this is new, it just happens to be a time of mass action against the Roma and travellers.
Spiegel Online published a column today noting the lack of plans governments have in place for dealing with tensions emerging from a Roma presence. The lack of a consolidated plan means the problem of ghettoized Roma communities, surviving off a lifestyle where petty theft and crime plays a large part, continues to remain rife.
What it leads to? The acceptance of mainstream discrimination against the travellers, ultimately allowing citizens to take matters in to their own hands.
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