The city where I did my EVS experience, Craiova, has one of the biggest Roma community of Romania. I've always been interested in this topic, because in Italy Roma people (the so-called “gypsies”) are often subject of discrimination and racism. I knew that in Romania they are way more and has been living there from way more time, but what I didn't know is that the that the social and integrational issues regarding them are also bigger.
In the European Roma Rights centre website there are several articles regarding Roma discrimination in Romania and from my personal experience, travelling all over the country, I could add several more: one time I saw some people beating up a Roma boy, and most of the time I heard talking about “gypsyes”, it was in bad terms
In Italy it's well known that there is a real organized criminality inside the camps, so in Romania it's probably bigger and better organized, because the conditions are very similar but on a different scale. But just like in Italy, this happens for a cultural reason: for decades Roma has been exploited because of their nomadism, that allowed them to accept any kind of work from the land owners, and even if the situation is now very different, their reputation in the society didn't change, and that led to the growth of criminal behaviours. But to think that this happens for a ethnicity fact, it's racism.
In Italians' imaginary, the presence of Roma is considered numerically relevant and is perceived as a danger for the public safety. Actually, looking at the numbers, we find out that in Europe Italy has one of the lowest pecentage of gypsies, the 0,25% of the population (European Roma Rights Centre), around 120/150 thousands, and that the 50% of them are italian citiziens (National Policy Observatory of the Parlament). If we go to the detail, than, the “visible gypsies” (the ones living in the so-called “camps”) are 40.000 (Senato della Repubblica, Ending report on the conditions of Rom, Sinti and Camminanti in Italia, Marco Bobbio and Giambattista Luperi). Those 40.000 are too often the target of social frustrations, showing how the society can be really unfair and cruel, and to silently assist to this hate spreading means to accept that one minority can be totally and unreasonably criminalized.
From 2000 Italy is called “camps Country” for its policy about the Roma: the authorized “gypsy camps” in fact exist only here, and they are at the same time cause and effect of their discrimination. The majority of the camps fall within the definition of “slums” adopted by the UN-HABITAT (United Nations Human Settlements Programme of ONU). Plus, this policy help the born and the flourish of illegality and power criminal relations. Because of all of this, there has been several studies and sentences from european monitoring authorities and from international organisations for human rights. In Italy itself, the National Strategy requires a change, as a precondition for any inclusion plan. The reasons why this still didn't happen are several, but after some judicial inquires, it's clear that there are economical interests behind.
According to the annual report of “21 Luglio” association, a Roma youngster in Italy have near 0% possibilities to go to the university, and for high school is around 1%. 1 out of 5 will never start the school. Compared to an Italian peer, he'll have 60 times the probability of being reported to the social services and to be in touch with italian sistem of minors' protection. His life expectancy will be around 10 years less than the rest of the population. Growing up, 7/10 he'll feel discriminated because of his identity.
Often times, Romanian governement focus centre not in what can be done for the Roma, but what can be done about them. In romanian history Roma have been at first enslaved because of political and economical circumstances and gradually, laws were created to support a system of oppression.
Then, slavery became condemnable and disappeared, but their conditions did not immediatly change and they still had to live in modest ways.
During the Second World War, influenced by Romania's political alliance with Nazi German, the Romanian Fascist Regime led by Marshal Ion Antonescu, pursued a strong anti-Roma policy. He did want to remove Roma from Romania, with the deportation of 30000 of them to Transnistria's concentration camps in the territory of the current Moldova. It was not much better under Communism: the Communist regime wanted to assimilate the Roma into mainstream society, following a systematic process of ignoring Romani culture and identity by forcing it in a “non-gypsy” mold.
The new Romanian political class holds primary responsibility for perpetuating the social stigma in post-communist Romanian society, through their use of the Romani community as a scapegoat in their efforts to divert public attention from corruption, nepotism and fraud. The majority of Romanian media sources are openly hostile towards Roma and readily use any means available to manipulate public opinion against Roma.
The youth in Romania should be an important force for bringing about a change. Unfortunately, the attitude of Romanian youth is another reason for concern. When it comes to the "Gypsy problem", the attitude of Romanian youth is openly hostile and racist.
Although the “Gypsy Question” has existed for many years and is still there, integration of the Romani people into Romanian society is possible. This integration requires an informed approach regarding policy and public attitude, ensuring the Roma may contribute to Romanian culture and society, rather than be assimilated into it and losing their unique heritage and traditions.
“Unraveling the 'gypsy question': the tale of the romanian Roma and solutions to Romani integration” Thomas Biggs
“Reflections About the Romani Gypsies and Romania” Rupert Wolfe Murray
United Nations Human Settlements Programme
Senato della Repubblica, Ending report on the conditions of Rom, Sinti and Camminanti in Italia
Rapporto annuale Associazione 21 luglio
European Roma Rights Centre: http://www.errc.org