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Scapegoating the Roma, Again

October 29, 2013 · 


New York Times Opinion Page


Published: October 17, 2013

The Roma, sometimes called Gypsies, have been part of the European cultural landscape for centuries. They have also suffered greatly from discrimination and prejudice, particularly in times of economic crisis, when they become scapegoats.


Protests After France Expels 2 Immigrant Students (October 18, 2013) 

They have dignity and rights like everyone else

That is happening now. Faced with stubbornly high unemployment and strained budgets, some European Union members are finding it easier to stigmatize and expel Roma than to provide them with the education, housing and employment they seek.

In London, a Roma camp was dismantled over the summer and most of its residents sent back to Romania. In the Czech Republic, Roma children are still routinely segregated in schools. In Sweden, revelations that the police kept a secret registry of Roma families touched off a national storm.

The Roma¹s impoverished living conditions and inability to get legitimate jobs reinforce stubborn stereotypes of a people forced to live on society¹s margins. France¹s interior minister, Manuel Valls, has said the lifestyle of Roma from Romania and Bulgaria is so different that most cannot be integrated into French society and must be expelled.

His comments have been criticized by other officials, and Amnesty International has condemned France¹s numerous deportations. On Thursday, there were protests in Paris over the deportation of a Roma girl, who was pulled off her school bus. But Mr. Valls¹s tough stance has earned him high ratings among many French citizens.

Discrimination against the Roma is a direct violation of the E.U.¹s Directive on Racial Equality and its official policy on Roma integration. Viviane Reding, the vice president of the European Commission and the E.U. justice commissioner, has severely upbraided France for violating E.U. rules protecting the free circulation of individuals. Her office warned that France faced E.U. sanctions over its treatment of the Roma.

A few European countries are taking steps to deal constructively with discrimination against the Roma. Recognizing that poverty is a real problem, Berlin has launched an ambitious plan to provide housing, education and medical care for Roma children. In Serbia, the Roma Education Fund is helping to get Roma youth to attend high school, and in Hungary an innovative program is teaching Roma students English.

With important municipal elections in France scheduled for next spring and the far-right National Front party on the rise, the actions of the Socialist government against the Roma look like political pandering. France¹s president, François Hollande, needs to confront his interior minister, come out strongly in defense of the Roma¹s fundamental rights and join other nations in helping them secure the education and jobs the

Dr Terry LAMB

Senior Lecturer in Education

Director of Learning and Teaching
Director, MA in Applied Professional Studies in Education
Senate Award Fellow for Sustained Excellence in Learning and Teaching

President, FIPLV (Fédération Internationale des Professeurs de Langues
Chief Editor, International Journal of Innovation in Language Learning and


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