Italy tells Romania: We don't want your Roma - extended


1,000 migrants a month arrive in Italian capital £20-a-week wages mean few are likely to go back – The Guardian reports. Balkan Roma shunned, illiterate hungry – UNICEF.

Tourists gazing down from Rome's third-century BC Milvian bridge get a glimpse of an idyllic, tree-lined stretch of the Tiber winding its way into the heart of the city. But if they look closer, they can make out a cluster of well-hidden shacks on the river bank built by homeless Roma migrants - many from Romania, a new EU member.

Desperate families sleep under elevated roads that ring the capital, in suburban woods and even, in the case of 14 Romanians discovered by police last month, in a Roman cistern along the Appian Way. Now, however, amid the surge in immigration - 1,000 Roma arrive from Romania every month - Italy's politicians are starting to take decisive, but controversial, action. Rome's mayor Walter Veltroni flew to Bucharest yesterday to urge the government to discourage its people from leaving in the first place. He has also announced the construction of four huge new camps in the suburbs of the Italian capital to house the arrivals. “We need to contain the flow from Romania and part of that involves working with child welfare groups to improve conditions and convince parents to stay put,” said a town hall official travelling with Veltroni.

The party will visit the mayors of three towns - Craiova, Calarasi and Turnu Severin - from where the majority of Rome's new arrivals hail. There are now around 7,000 Romanian Roma in the Italian capital. “Of those only 1,500 are living in council-run facilities, the rest are in shacks or in the open,” said town hall spokesman Enrico Serpieri. Their presence has generated a succession of confrontations in Italy. An angry mob in Ascoli Piceno, near the Adriatic coast, torched a camp in April after a drunk-driving Roma youth killed four teenagers on a narrow road. Such scenes are yet to occur in Rome, but in May the regional president, Piero Marrazzo, was barracked by a crowd for being soft on immigration when he attended the funeral of Vanessa Russo, a girl from the gritty suburb of Borgata Fidene murdered by a Romanian prostitute during a row.

Livio Galos, an official from Romania's interior ministry who liaisons with the Italian police, said some Roma arrivals were involved in petty theft, although he played down hysterical Italian headlines about a wave of criminals taking Italy by storm. “Thanks to the Romanian education system a few have become expert credit card cloners, but the stories about circus acrobats becoming daredevil burglars is pure myth,” he said. While Veltroni hopes his trip is a success, a Roma spokesman was dubious that many would want to return to Romania while available wages ranged from €20 to €40 (£13 to £27, $27 to $54) a week.

Massimo Converso, a spokesman for Italian Roma group Opera Nomadi, said there was, however, an alternative to returning or entering the planned camps, which Veltroni's opponents have likened to prison camps. “We want to live in houses,” he said. “So we are pushing the Italian government to hand over disused public buildings like stations and maintenance buildings along highways.” Converso said that after a pilot project saw Roma families move into old farmhouses near Venice he was now eyeing the many abandoned and semi-abandoned medieval hamlets that dot Italy, usually on isolated rocky outcrops. (

Roma are the largest minority group across the Balkans, but most of them spend their life in poverty, illiterate, underfed and marginalized by society, a study by the UN children's agency UNICEF showed.
Census data from Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Romania and Bulgaria put the Roma, or Gypsy, population at some 3.7 million people. The World Bank says it is over 15 million in reality, according to a Reuters report. “Roma have no jobs because no one will hire them, they are uneducated, have no water, no electricity, no books for their children and everybody hates them,” the study quoted a teacher from Serbia as saying. The Balkans is believed to be home to the largest number of Roma in the world. They are treated with suspicion, and hostility by their fellow citizens, many of whom see them as clannish, lazy and thieving. The report showed that most live under the poverty line: 78% of Roma in Albania, and 66% in Romania, live on less that 30 a day. Some 53% of respondents reported going hungry on a regular basis across the region. Census data from Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Romania and Bulgaria put the Roma, or Gypsy, population at some 3.7 million people.

“We eat from the garbage bins,” a woman from Romania said. Half of the 600 settlements in Serbia were categorized as “unsanitary slums” in the survey, which noted that Roma children in Serbia were six times more likely to be underweight than their ethnic Serb counterparts. “The environment of a Roma child is one of marginalization, poverty and exclusion,” said Svetlana Marojevic of UNICEF's Belgrade office that coordinated the survey. “They are in fact invisible, living on the margins of societies that don't care.” Only 13% of Serb Roma complete primary education, often ending up in special schools for children with learning difficulties because of their poor language skills. UNICEF called on states to battle discrimination, especially in schools, saying education was the only thing that could break the cycle of poverty and exclusion. In five out of seven countries surveyed, less than 1% of Roma made it to university. Their unemployment rate across the region was upwards of 44%, reaching 100% in Bosnia. “Companies advertising jobs never say 'we want no Gypsies'; but once you show up, you have no chance,” a Roma from Bulgaria was quoted as saying. (

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