Posts Tagged ‘Roma’

Giving money to Roma beggars is not a good idea

February 1, 2016

Virtually every supermarket in Sweden has a Roma beggar siting outside at the entrance – in all weathers and even when it is -20ºC. About 90% of the thousands in Sweden are thought to be from Romania. Train and bus stations are also well covered. Certainly their presence is almost ubiquitous. The urge to drop any loose change I may have into their bowls is heavily tempered by the conviction that this is well organised begging and is actually a well-oiled “enterprise”. My perception from my limited observations is that the pitches for each beggar are allocated somehow, that they work shifts of about 4 hours per individual and that each is equipped with a mobile phone. They seem to be dropped off and picked up from their allocated positions by car. It seems they are overwhelmingly from Romania, taking advantage of the EU’s free travel arrangements. They are not, I think, receiving any welfare payments.They usually congregate and live in trailer parks, camp sites or other common land in – mainly – run-down caravans.

A petrol station carpark where dozens of beggars live. Photo: The Local

The Roma beggars in Sweden are far less wretched than the beggars I am used to seeing in India but their situation is still pretty awful. Presumably it is not as bad as they would have it back in Romania. Nevertheless my gut feeling has been that putting money in their begging bowls is not a good thing since it can only lead to the conclusion that “begging works”. I suspect that giving money to these beggars will only make it a “successful enterprise” and can only entrench and promote that enterprise. The enterprise will only be discouraged and stop if it is unsuccessful.

The report from a government enquiry has just been published and it seems to support my gut-feeling that giving money to the “begging enterprise” is not a good idea.

The Local (SE)Swedes should not offer cash or welfare services to Roma beggars asking for money in the streets, the lead investigator behind a key national inquiry has said.

Sweden’s national coordinator for vulnerable EU citizens, Martin Valfridsson, presented the findings of a major government begging inquiry on Monday alongside equality minister Åsa Regnér.

“I don’t think [giving money to beggars] is what helps individuals out of deep poverty in the long run. I really believe that the money is more useful with organizations in the countries of origin,” he said.

Sweden has experienced a surge in EU migrants – mostly part of the Roma community from Romania and Bulgaria – begging on streets around the country in the past year.

“We see that the number of vulnerable EU citizens have increased sharply. It’s EU citizens who don’t have the right to welfare in Sweden. In 2015 there were up to 5,000 vulnerable EU nationals in Sweden with a small dip after the summer. Of those around 70 are children,” said Valfridsson.

He also suggested that offering places in schools to children of EU migrants could lead to more vulnerable families bringing their children to Sweden while begging in the Nordic country.

“I don’t think we should generally offer schooling to these children,” he said. ……..  Valfridsson further discouraged municipalities from making campsites legally available to Roma travellers.

“That creates new difficulties. Society helps reestablish those slum communities we have worked so frantically to get rid of. The message is that you’re allowed to come here, but if you do you must live here legally. Society must have a strict approach to that you’re not allowed to settle on someone else’s land,” he said.


Norway forcibly “kidnaps” half of all Roma children

May 18, 2015

There is something very peculiar going on in the State of Norway and it is the Child Welfare Agency which is arousing great suspicion. It may just be cultural ignorance or it may be a deep-seated racism or – and this is much more worrying – it may be a social experiment which has some political backing.

Norway has a very dark history in the treatment of its Roma population. Forced sterilisations of Roma women were taking place as late as 1977. Norway denied reentry to many of its Roma citizens if they left the country during WW2. Inevitably those denied reentry ended up in Nazi concentration camps. Many died. The Norwegian State’s Child Welfare Agency has a reputation for cultural ignorance and racism in their very frequent “kidnapping” or “confiscation” of children of parents they don’t understand. Now, it seems they are being accused by the European Commission of forcibly taking half of all Roma children in Norway away from their parents.

UPDATE! The report is available here.

“Serious concerns have been raised by civil society representatives about extremely frequent placements of Roma children in child welfare services, including foster care. It is estimated that over 60 Roma children are in foster care currently and that a further 60 children may be vulnerable to such interventions in the future; this represents about half of the total number of (non-immigrant) Roma children in Norway”.

Swedish Radio:

Around 120 Roma children in Norway have either been forcibly placed in foster care or are at risk of it, which is equivalent to half of those who are counted as Norwegian Roma children, according to the  Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe in a report to be published later today.

They Council of Europe gives no details on how it has arrived at this previously unknown total. However the report says that Norwegian NGOs are very concerned that the so-called Barnevernet is forcing taking so many Roma children away from their parents.

Most of the children end up in foster families and some in institutions. According to the Council of Europe sources many Roma women in Norway avoid giving birth to their children at hospitals for fear that the authorities will take away their newborn babies.

The Norwegian government said in a response to the Council of Europe that the country does not register people based on ethnicity and that the government therefore can not comment on this new information that such a large proportion of Roma children are being forcibly taken away.

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, is said to be seriously concerned about the situation of the Roma in Norway. He claims that there has been an increase in violent and discriminatory statements in Norway against Roma. The Commissioner also points to the lack of education for Roma children. In 2012 data from Oslo shows that just over half of the city’s Roma children of school age were registered in a school class.

This is not the first time that Norway’s child services have been the subject of very disturbing reports. The Nordic Page reports:

The recent conflict over the Norwegian authorities putting two children of an Indian couple in foster care gets resolved with political intervention. But there are still questions that will not go away about the Norwegian Child Welfare Agency (Barnevernet).

One of the best illustrating examples of this problem is the latest barnevern crisis between India and Norway. Two kids of the NRI couple were taken under protective care last May by Barnevernet, which claimed emotional disconnect with the parents, and placed them in foster parental care as per the local Norwegian court’s directive. The family had accused the Norwegian authorities with cultural misunderstandings and prejudice as they were taken for being fed by hand and sleeping in the same bed as their parents in addition to insufficient toys to play in the house. After Indian Foreign Ministry intervened the investigation, the Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre helped children to be handed to children’s uncles.

But the stories of Russian children being forcibly taken by the Norwegian Child Welfare Agency are even more disturbing. There is a hint of some of the children being “trafficked” to paedophiles posing as foster parents and being abused.

Russian media have recently run a series of issues about how more and more Russian women living in Norway are deprived of their children. Especially two cases on Russian media were strong enough to mobilize the protestors. One of these news stories featured a Russian citizen, who lives in Norway, whose name is Maya Kasayeva. Her shocking statements took many newspapers’ front pages: “During the court hearings, the judge told me: ‘We give you residence permit, and you give us your son.’ I refused, and then the repressions started.”

Irina Bergseth Frolova, a Russian woman living in Norway, had found out that her ex-husband, a Norwegian citizen, as well as his friends and relatives, had been raping their four-year-old son. The reports also remind another foster father who was previously been found guilty for child pornography and child sexual abuse in Stavanger.

In fact, the practices of Barnevern do not only worry Russians and Indians. There is a deep rooted skepticism among local groups towards an increased use of home based measures. A report prepared by Gruppen til Familiens Selvstendige Rett (GFSR), Redd Våre Barn (RVB) and BarnasRett concludes that current practices in the Norwegian Child Protection system are not compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Kidnapping children is often driven by a very lucrative adoption industry. And a small but significant part of the adoption industry is to satisfy the desires of paedophiles. But 50% of all Roma children being forcibly taken away suggests some political motive. It is not plausible – as the Norwegian government claims – that these numbers come as a surprise. It could well be that Norway is trying out a new policy to integrate Roma children — by taking them away from their Roma parents and brainwashing them to be something else.

Stockholm’s Sheraton hotel exhibits its lack of class – denies a Roma guest entry into its breakfast room

March 26, 2014

Discrimination by appearance (dress, looks, hair style, skin colour, piercings ….) is endemic in most of Europe. The difference in Sweden is that there is a general, self-righteous perception that it is not.

Add to this that the Sheraton hotel in Stockholm is particularly lacking in “class” – which I define as the “elegance of behaviour”  – and this story is not at all surprising.

(I should add that I know the Sheraton well. I used to stay at the Sheraton on my regular trips to Stockholm but then stopped and shifted my custom to The Grand or to one of the more convenient local Scandic Hotels mainly because the Sheraton lacked “class”. Somewhat pretentious, the hotel and its staff always had a higher perception of their own worth than they actually had. And I prefer not to stay at hotels which look down on their guests. It may have four stars but it counts for me as a low-class hotel.) 

The LocalA Swedish expert invited by the government to speak at the release of its white paper on Roma discrimination was on Tuesday denied entry to the breakfast room at Stockholm’s Sheraton hotel. She had to drink her coffee in the lobby. Diana Nyman, the chairman of the Roma Council in Gothenburg, was set to speak at the release of the white paper on discrimination of Roma and travellers in Sweden. The government put her up at the four-star Sheraton Hotel, a stone’s throw away from parliament and the government quarter, but when Nyman, 45, went down for breakfast she was offered a modern-day example of the discrimination that the white-paper on Tuesday admitted had been endemic in Sweden. Nyman, who wears a traditional wide black skirt and frilly blouse and whorecently fielded questions about beggars in an online chat, said she was almost knocked over by a staff member who rushed to bar the Roma expert and speaker from entering the breakfast room.  “Even after I had showed that I’d paid for breakfast the staff insisted that I stay in the lobby,” Nyman told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper (DN) on Tuesday. “They got me coffee so I could drink it there instead.” 

I note that at the Sheraton’s Facebook page they have a half-hearted apology which does not go very far and does not impress the many commenters.

Thomas Hammarberg, UN advisor with Diana Nyman in Roma dress

Thomas Hammarberg, UN advisor with Diana Nyman in Roma dress image


The Black Death altered European genes

February 25, 2014

A fascinating study and further support for my view that evolution is not about survival of the fittest but is about the deselection of the weakest.

Reblogged from Science magazine:

The Black Death didn’t just wipe out millions of Europeans during the 14th century. It left a mark on the human genome, favoring those who carried certain immune system genes, according to a new study. Those changes may help explain why Europeans respond differently from other people to some diseases and have different susceptibilities to autoimmune disorders.

Geneticists know that human populations evolve in the face of disease. Certain versions of our genes help us fight infections better than others, and people who carry those genes tend to have more children than those who don’t. So the beneficial genetic versions persist, while other versions tend to disappear as those carrying them die. This weeding-out of all but the best genes is called positive selection. But researchers have trouble pinpointing positively selected genes in humans, as many genes vary from one individual to the next.

Enter Mihai Netea, an immunologist at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in the Netherlands. He realized that in his home country, Romania, the existence of two very distinct ethnic groups provided an opportunity to see the hand of natural selection in the human genome. A thousand years ago, the Rroma people—commonly known as gypsies—migrated into Europe from north India. But they intermarried little with European Romanians and thus have very distinct genetic backgrounds. Yet, by living in the same place, both of these groups experienced the same conditions, including the Black Plague, which did not reach northern India. So the researchers sought genes favored by natural selection by seeking similarities in the Rroma and European Romanians that are not found in North Indians.

Celebrating differences. The migration of gypsies from India 1000 years ago (see map) set the stage for a telling study about how diseases can influence the genome.

Celebrating differences. The migration of gypsies from India 1000 years ago (see map) set the stage for a telling study about how diseases can influence the genome.

Netea; evolutionary biologist Jaume Bertranpetit of Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain; and their colleagues looked for differences at more than 196,000 places in the genomes of 100 Romanians of European descent and 100 Rroma. For comparison, the researchers also cataloged these differences in 500 individuals who lived in northwestern India, where the Rroma came from. Then they analyzed which genes had changed the most to see which were most favored by selection.

Genetically, the Rroma are still quite similar to the northwestern Indians, even though they have lived side by side with the Romanians for a millennium, the team found. But there were 20 genes in the Rroma and the Romanians that had changes that were not seen in the Indians’ versions of those genes, Netea and his colleagues report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These genes “were positively selected for in the Romanians and in the gypsies but not in the Indians,” Netea explains. “It’s a very strong signal.”

Those genes included one for skin pigmentation, one involved in inflammation, and one associated with susceptibility to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. But the ones Netea and Bertranpetit were most excited about were a cluster of three immune system genes found on chromosome 4. These genes code for toll-like receptors, proteins which latch on to harmful bacteria in the body and launch a defensive response. “We knew they must be important for host defense,” Netea says.

What events in history might have favored these versions of the genes in gypsies and Romanians, but not in Indians? Netea and his colleagues tested the ability of the toll-like receptors to react to Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that caused the Black Death. They found that the strength of the immune response varied depending on the exact sequence of the toll-like receptor genes.

Netea and Bertranpetit propose that the Rroma and European Romanians came to have the same versions of these immune system genes because of the evolutionary pressure exerted byY. pestis. Other Europeans, whose ancestors also faced and survived the Black Death, carried similar changes in the toll-like receptor genes. But people from China and Africa—two other places the Black Death did not reach—did not have these changes. (There have been multiple plagues throughout history around the world, but none have been so deadly as the Black Death, which killed an estimated one in every four Europeans, and so exerted very strong selection.) The similarities in the other genes were likely caused by other conditions experienced by Rroma and Europeans, but not Indians.

“The use of two populations living in the same geographic area is very clever,” says human population geneticist Oscar Lao of Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, who was not involved in the study. “This experimental evidence is very important,” he adds. It shows that the Black Death bacterium does indeed interact with the proteins coded for by the genes favored by natural selection. “That should be the goal for all those type of analyses.”

“It’s a nice hypothesis that they are putting forward,” agrees Lluis Quintana-Murci, a human population geneticist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris who was not involved in the study. The genetic changes may have modern-day effects. “The presence of these particular versions of these genes may give the evolutionary basis for why certain populations are more at risk” for certain types of diseases, says Douglas Golenbock, an immunologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. “The side effect seems to be that the Europeans have a more proinflammatory immune system than those who have never experienced Black Death.”

However, Lao and Quintana-Murci wonder if the convergence in these genes might be explained another way. It’s possible that these favorable versions were introduced into the Rroma by interbreeding between the Rroma and the Romanians, they suggest. Additional sequencing of the converged genetic regions should answer this question, Quintana-Murci says. It’s also important to check how these toll-like receptors respond to other deadly bacteria to see if other diseases might have been the cause of the changes. That will likely happen, Quintana-Murci adds. “This will inspire other labs to see if other bacterial infections could also explain the [selection].”

Europe does not like it’s Roma

September 25, 2013

Freedom of movement in Europe is much touted. European nations like to think of themselves as being in the vanguard of civil rights. But gender equality (for those of the correct ethnicity) and the rights of ethnically correct minorities clearly take precedence over the rights of Europe’s Roma populations. The harassment of Roma – who don’t make much effort to change their way of life to fit in with the rest of society – is evident across most of Europe.

The Roma today constitute a second, lower class of Europeans.

They are walled off in communities in Romania, are forcibly sterilised in Slavakia, and confined to ghettos in Bulgaria. They are an easy target for the neo-Nazis of Hungary and Germany and the Czech Republic and Greece and Italy. They are currently being expelled from Germany, Sweden, Denmark and France – often to Kosovo. Their ways are too strange. They dress strangely. They resort to begging far too often. They are feared and disliked by the majority of Europeans.

In just the last few days they have been much in the news.

Greece Street Musician

Roma girl being kicked in Greece (via Greek reporter)

  1. Sweden: The Skåne police force has become embroiled in a fresh controversy over the Roma registries after it emerged they didn’t admit the records were on file when asked by the Swedish Commission on Security and Integrity Protection last year.
  2. France: Interior Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday insisted he stood by a controversial call for tens of thousands of ethnic Roma to be kicked out of France. Valls has triggered an outcry from human rights groups, the European Commission and some of his government colleagues by saying any Roma not working should be “delivered back to the borders”, describing their way of life as “extremely different from ours,” and claiming they will never integrate into French society.
  3. Greece: A photograph of a female shop owner pushing a little Roma girl street musician on a pedestrian walkway under the Acropolis to send her away has taken off on the Internet and set Greek authorities to investigate the apparent abuse. 
  4. UKNigel Farage will vow today to put the expected influx of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants to Britain from January at the heart of the UK Independence Party’s campaign in next year’s European elections.

European Gypsies (Roma) descended from the ancestors of NW Indian Adivasis

November 30, 2012

While the Indian origin of the European Roma populations is linguistically and genetically well-established, accurate identification of their South Asian source has remained a matter of debate. A new open access paper PLoS ONE 7(11): e48477. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048477 now pinpoints the ancestry of today’s Roma to the ancestors of the Adivasi (“original people)  tribes of North West India.

The Phylogeography of Y-Chromosome Haplogroup H1a1a-M82 Reveals the Likely Indian Origin of the European Romani Populations, Niraj Rai et al.

I note , in passing, that the discrimination and “oppression” of the current Roma populations across all of Europe is not so unlike the discrimination and “oppression” being suffered by their distant cousins who are the current Adivasis in India.

Out of India Migration Rai et al


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