It bothers me that France is pushing these EU citizens out of the country, though I understand that France also doesn’t want tent cities of displaced people around, but throwing them out of the country will only solve the problem in the short-term. Yes, many of these Roma are currently in France illegally, if they stay more than three months, (at least until Bulgaria’s and Romania’s immigration wait is over and they can move as freely as any other EU citizen) but taking them out of France doesn’t solve the issue of why they felt the need to come there in the first place. Plus, they can legally come back as soon as they touch ground in their home country.
What needs to happen to fix the “issues” is to help the Roma get an education and then succeed as a productive citizen… leaving job discrimnation and stereotypes behind.
Fact: Very few sub-groups of Roma actually want to be a begging “gypsies”, which I consider a “not-so-nice” term. There are just too many issues Roma face to get to that successful and intergrated spot on the ladder. I can say this with full confidence because I’ve listened to Roma.
While doing my final project in Europe in the Spring of 2009, I gave myself the chance to go to Bulgaria. It was an area of Europe I have never explored, and with my blonde hair and blue eyes, I stuck out like the only white rock in a bucket of dark stones. I went there to do a story on how the current economic crisis was harming the Roma’s intergration and progression. Similarly to when democracy came in, the new crisis left lots of Roma without jobs. Because of discrimination issues, they are, unfortunately, the first to be fired and last to be hired in many places, but discrimination is not the only issue Roma face there.
One of my Bulgarian friends brought me to the Roma “slum” in Sofia, and it was practically like entering a third-world country. He said his friends wouldn’t like that he brought me, an outsider, there, showing me the most deprived part of Sofia.
Because I was a “media” figure, the people in the “slum” there didn’t care for me to have video and still cameras down there, and I don’t blame them. I got lots of rough stares. They looked at me as if I were a tourist taking pictures of their “situation”, as if they were zoo animals in a cage and I gawking at the poor animals in their misery. Click!.. Each photo rougher than the one before.
The media in Bulgaria tends to shed the Roma in a very bad light. Most journalism is (in the end) basically controlled by government/mafia and with that, controlled by politics and most politicians are not pro-Roma because Roma make up the majority of unemployed people. The Roma are often used, in my opinion, as a scapegoat. Most Bulgarians I talked to from Sofia said the only thing that has changed since the Soviet Union failed is that the name of the government and that it joined the EU in 2007, by simply looking good on paper, but in my opinion, it’s better that it be in the EU for its citizens than not be.
There are several human rights and non-profit groups working to help the Roma, but there still needs to be more integration and – the biggest factor – more education amongst the Roma.
It was tough to find a Roma student in college, but I did. Bulgarians first laughed at this idea when I asked English major students in Sofia if they had any college friends that were Roma. Even with an education, the single Roma student I did find with a master’s degree was not having luck with jobs, but his family was so proud of him. Listening to his story was incredible, looking at everything he has faced to get to where he was. Many applications forced him to connect a picture of himself to it, or asked about their heritage. Bulgarians can easily point out the Roma on the streets with their darker skin.
He admitted that most Roma and especially more remotely located Roma need a better education and that he is an inspiration to many back home. He explained that many Roma students drop out of school at a young age because A) they get married if they are girls, or B) their school is so far away from their home, it’s tough to get there.
So put the puzzle together and it doesn’t take a genius to see why these people want to leave Bulgaria, (or Romania). What needs to happen and what the EU needs to focus on to change the issues underlying this mass immigration, if you can call it that, is to educate the Roma and make sure they stay on a track to success and integration.
Without education, there is more reason for job discrimination. Without discrimination, they will be employed. Without unemployement, they will be successful, productive citizens. Without being on welfare, they can no longer be used as a scapegoat in government. Without being a scapegoat, they will fight the stereotype. Without the stereotype, they will be more integrated. Without being outsiders in their own country, they will be less likely to leave.
To sum it up, education for the Roma is what needs to happen to solve the issues in the long run.