The Roma clearances post on SFN today

Today there was an item that was picked up about around 200 Roma people being rounded up around about Lille. It was posted on SFN but appears to have attracted little attention. That is tragic.

Call them Roma, Sinti, Kale or Romani and if one really must Gypsies, Gitanos or here in France Manouches or Tsiganes and pejoratively Romanichels or Gitans, but it all comes to one thing. They are an eternally persecuted people. In France Manush, Kalderash, Lovari and Sinti tribes have been either in and out of or permanently in France for centuries. There are probably half a million of them, whereby most have been sedentarised - made to settle, but often in 'settlements' or neighbourhoods. During the Second World War they were as persecuted as Jews but that part of a gruesome history is all too often overlooked.

Now we are reading about 'newcomers' from Eastern Europe being rounded up and deported. Where to and why? If people imagine that they 'belong' in Romania because of the similarity of the name of people and country, then that is a mistake. Their origins are almost certainly India as geneticists have proved and also linguist have been saying for at least a century. They probably left a couple of thousand years ago and moved westward. They were and are a nomadic people. What has never fitted in Europe was their culture, language, appearance and the fact they travelled. Myths grew up around them as pickpockets, thieves, kidnappers, evil magicians, enchanters and numerous other malevolent accusations that demonised them further. Because they often had no other means of supporting themselves they begged and still often do. When they have worked, for instance in agriculture, they have always proven themselves hard working and skilled. So too with the many handicrafts and trades they have performed.

In the modern world they are unwanted if they travel, unable to enter into welfare systems, enjoy the benefits of education and medecine many of us take for granted. In every respect they are marginalised and oppressed. A few tens of thousands still travel in Europe and do not really belong in any country. Where they have been given nationalities that does not mean the countries want them. It is some of those who were effectively fenced in by the so-called Iron Curtain around Eastern and particularly Southeastern Europe who are largely on the move again. They are more or less shown the door in countries where they were forced to stay for several decades. Now they are being moved on again. It is not just France, but we have just heard about France so that is the example we have know about and may well be hearing more about in the near future.

It astonishes me that after all we should have learned about injustice and inhumanity over the centuries, with the twentieth century so fresh in memory, that we are still 'cleaning up' after some of the worst events and that this still happens. It is not so much that it happens that shocks me any longer but the needless violence that is employed when their camps are raided. The story was put up on SFN but where were the comments or responses? I am so often disappointed in our species because of the way we bandy the word humanity around to describe ourselves collectively but turn our heads too often in the face of its other face - inhumanity. My wish is that we all learn to think and think again and carry our humanity with pride and end this kind of shame.

Carol, excuse me, but that's incorrect and you are just making assumptions. No, I haven 'lived among them to study them' (shjeez!) but have ample experience with many of them in different countries and places. Most bad.

Also, if one wants to start a discussion over an obvious 'public worry issue' like this is in France and other countries, it seems a bit cowardly to then close the discussion as soon as it goes into a different direction than OP's opinion.

I say as long as nobody gets personally insulted or called names, then it still is a valid 'discussion' and should be allowed.

Of course this isn't my forum, so it is just my opinion ;-) Heck, I don't even live in France permanently (yet)...... and looking at things here I might have second thoughts about that too *grin*

That's very romantic Sheila but a long way from the reality of Irish "Travellers".

Part of Annette's answer is ' Don't compare the rightful arrests etc in France of thieves with Nazi prosecutions, it's disrespectful and somehow ridiculous'. The arrests and deportations are not said to be because of theft or anything else of that nature, but because the people are 'undocumented' therefore illegal aliens. This is a prejudicial statement, for an example of a bit of distasteful information have a look at Apart from that, everybody is entitled to an opinion. I do not like what I am reading and fear it will become ugly. That is not about you, but the way others are expressing opinions that are not borne out by knowledge or facts.

You can't start a discussion and not expect people to give their opinions.

It is obviously a subject that causes strong feelings from people, doesn't mean they are wrong, just different.

This post is now getting subjective and full of prejudices rather than objective discussion. I am asking James to close it down. For anybody who sees this before it goes. Yes, I have lived near 'gypsy' camps, no I am not at all 'afraid' of them and have friends and colleagues who have lived among them for many years to study them. If any of you need an example, look up the work of Professor Judith Okely who specialised in the study of Roma in France for the whole of her working career. But then I am sure I will be told how wrong she is.

Sorry if you feel offended Carol, but 'all these unpleasant descriptions' The terms i used were rather mild compared to many descriptions banded about.

I am certainly not going to get into an argument about how we should describe people who live outside of the law, doing what they want, taking what they feel like, not caring who it hurts in the process and generally being a drain on society.

As Brian rightly said many 'Gypsy' camps in the UK are generally anything but 'Roma's' and unfortunately a large proportion of them are made up of the people i've described above.

In bygone years it was perhaps more acceptable to be a traveller but in these days of property ownership, benefit systems and capitalism, they are not liked or welcomed by many, after all, dare i ask how many Roma/Traveller/Gypsy people pay taxes towards any society?

Yes, Jayne and François

I agree with the two of you; it is very easy to be tolerant and compassionate from a distance, but when you are exposed to the effects of this community and their way of life every day, and once had to more or less literally kick a man to keep him from stealing your dog!!! and constantly worry when a group of these kids come towards you, after having had the contents of your bag stolen once, it's not so easy to be tolerant.

Brian, go to one of the big parks in Paris and see how they work in groups to trick tourists etc. Is this what you believe should be accepted? See how they treat public areas like public toilets, do you believe this should just be accepted too? it's not right to live on stealing and begging and disrespecting public areas and other peoples' property.

Don't compare the rightful arrests etc in France of thieves with Nazi prosecutions, it's disrespectful and somehow ridiculous;

If you want to live in a civilized society with good hospitals, schools, roads, etc. you have to contribute, and if you don't want to do that, you should find another place to live.


I think we've been growing more and more tolerant ever since things started back in the 60's, up to a point where it has become ridiculous and it now only works for others to take advantage of all our hard work without contributing anything.

I may be growing into an old grumpy, but I guess age and EXPERIENCE makes one change one's mind at some point. I always cheered Israel in their battle with their enemies, for there seemed no reason to attack them. But today I do NOT agree with their settlements policy.

I always was an 'America fan', supporting them in 'their' struggle in Vietnam, working for US companies and having many friends there to this day. But I do NOT like the mess they have made of the world today, what with their 'we can take it all' and 'just borrow more money' credit card society.

I was a staunch supporter of anti-discrimination drives back in the 70's, and am just shrugging my shoulders over gay marriage and other such strange-to-me issues..... but I have come to the conclusion that tolerance should have a limit and that we, in Western Europe, have forgot about that.

I also cheered on Europe at some time, and the Euro. When I was an international exec traveling millions of miles on airplanes from one country to the next, managing multi-cultural teams, it all seemed so much better.

But now it turns out it isn't. he system is being misused by politicians who make extraordinary amounts of money, by bureaucrats doing the same in positions nobody needs, and by countries/populations who were too damned lazy to fight and work and are now coming in to take our tax money, our jobs and our values.

There is no way we should be sacrificing OUR freedom, values and property to others, just because they haven't fought as hard as we did, and/or worked as hard as we did.

So do I want the borders back? Do I want the Euro gone? Do I want a line in the sand again?

Damn sure I do ! We'd all be better off, even the nay-sayers ;-)

These people who were thrown out were probably known to the police/gendarmes. It was an illegal site. There are good and bad in all but those that have no respect for the law do not deserve to be allowed to travel wherever they want. They are persecuted because of what they take with them and what they leave behind. Theft and filth.

Perhaps Brian you might like to move close to one of these sites and see how long it takes before they are over your fence thieving your hard worked for belongings, rats going through the crap they leave all over the place.

Why is it unreasonable to expect them to pay taxes, why should they have free healthcare when we work our butts off to pay ours in whatever country we live. They seem to have brand new Mercedes, new vans, huge caravans.

People never bothered commenting because it was not felt worth the effort. Those that have not had to encounter the abuse or be near the filth can easily say how unfair it is. Poor people. Sorry, I am not one of them.

I have spent time in parts of Ethiopia working in towns like Dessie that by our standards are filthy. So does that justify us saying they are dirty, therefore no good and the people there are probably all thieves? I hope not.

Sure, there are always two sides to every coin BUT the objective has always been to make these people settle, integrate and fit into the way of life where they are forced to stay. They have usually neither wanted to stay nor settle, they are nomads. However, restrictions are forever being placed on their movements. If the tables were turned and we were told to get on our bikes how would we feel?

At the same time, I have even read something recommending they ALL be shipped back to India from where they came a couple of thousand years ago by an author also well know for supporting eugenics and writing that the extermination of Jews by the Nazis is an exaggeration. Look at numbers of 'deportations' to concentration camps and 'eliminations of subhumans', deaths from incurable diseases and executions in those files that were not destroyed in 1945 alone and one might argue that Roma who were more numerous than Jews anyway, were also numerically more persecuted. I am not sure whether that is right, but it certainly is possible. One does not justify the other, but the historian I mentioned, who shall remain nameless, also believes we should leave the 'inferior' people of Africa, Asia and so on to themselves until they become extinct (he does not actually say that, but implies it).

Sure there are limits to what any society can tolerate but isn't it time a few more people learned to cope with difference? All societies have delinquent members, but there is no such thing as a race of delinquents. It is too easy to brand all of one group as being bad because of a small minority who are bad. Is your bad experience in Romania a good basis for thinking all travelling people are by nature bad and only bad?

OK, but how many actually were Roma? Gypsy camps in the UK are often anything but. Ethnic Roma are different and the 'rules' in some ways do not apply to people with very hard and fast rules of their own who have been kept outside society as well as moving between many over the centuries. And yes police do accuse them when they need a quick 'excuse' rather than actually taking action. Perhaps not you and perhaps in the UK less often than they did in the past, but certainly in several European countries they most definitely do.

One can romanticize the world and live happily in a cocoon, even wearing rose coloured glasses to match. One may even be totally right about discrimination, freedom of speech and travel, and of prejudice or even bigotry.

But there are shades of green, and red, and yellow, in addition to black and white.

So .... after 35+ years of being pestered, annoyed and even threatened each and every time we traveled to Romania (where my dear wife hails from), after having seen the dirty 'camps' these people CHOOSE to live in, after having my in-laws been robbed several times in various ways by these 'Roma's', and after seeing them now populate OUR streets and cities all over Europe whilst TOTALLY REFUSING to any way of integrating gracefully into the societies that DID allow them to VISIT and even STAY in their 'own ways', I sadly cannot agree with the people 'defending their rights'.

There is a point where one forfeits ones rights, pure and simple. And that has nothing to do with discrimination in my humble opinion. It has to do with logic. And above all it has to do with respect.

Where I come from 'rights' are EARNED, and not just given to anyone. Rights are for the people respecting other people's rights AND property.

I am sure there are (some?) of them that do respect those things, but alas, the majority that I have seen in my life do NOT. And whether that is Romania or any of the other countries they hail from, they are not welcome THERE neither... guess why !?

It just is too easy to call them victims and tell us they are being prosecuted 'just because'. And while I agree that we do not want to go back to the Nazi and Jews times, or the segregation that once was normal in the US, there are limits as to what a society will accept.

I still believe that if you are a GUEST in a country or community, you adapt to your hosts. If you want to STAY in a country or society, you adept to your host and integrate. You may still be yourself, but you cannot force your ways upon your hosts, or totally neglect THEIR rights and RULES.

If you are NOT willing to do so, then please be gone. Good riddance. And if people don't have the decency to see it that way and disappear by themselves, then who can blame the people defending THEIR rights and ways and kick them out !?

I am happily helping poor people in Africa, through various ways, I have happily assisted hundreds of Romanians in my life, and I am providing aid and support to people that get hit by disasters, as much as our means allow.
I am however NOT inclined to support those that are merely trying to take advantage of our lackluster laws and exaggerated tolerance and not respect any of what we have built, achieved and enjoy without any form of contribution from THEIR side.

As with everything in life, there are always TWO sides to a medal........ ;-)

The UK Carol, my French isn't that good to do it here lol

Speaking as an ex police officer i can assure you that the police do most definitely not use gypsies as an excuse to not persue any crime. I have been involved in the past in the investigation of many crimes which involved gypsies. i have been on gypsy camps to arrest suspects with half a dozen or so colleages and been surrounded by 20 or more of the men of the camp bearing whatever sort of makeshift weapons they could lay hands on in the process of investigating these crimes.

I'm not saying all gypsies are bad, but a lot are and also a lot of , for want of a better term, scummy, dregs of society non romany 'hanger's on' weadle their way into the gypsy camps, possibly for protection or possibly because noone else wants them. But in my past experience of dealing with gypsies they seem to have a general belief that the rules of the land apply to everyone else but not to them.

I am sure there are lots that will disagree with me, i'm only speaking from my own personal experience.

Takes me back, saw McColl singing that a few times... Have the Dubliners version somewheres about. Lot of truth as in many songs. Nomads have been nomads for millenia, to deprive them of that is to kill an entire culture and way of life that McColl described. Haven't we done enough damage to fellow human beings already?

It could be a sweet life for many of us to roam away from taxes and traditional

payments as we all kn ow them.

But if we were all wheels on fire and fancy free the world would be

in a big mess?

I have a little insite to tinker knowledge and how

the sweet smile of innocence warms any heart which is

iced with questions.

I look and I listien....

Haven't been at the computer as much as I would like this week, Brian and didn't see original post. However, there are numerous issues at play here, are there not? Such as: perception, fear of the unknown, lack of education/understanding, amongst the "settled" community re the lifestyle of travellers. Add to that the general sense of resentment from those paying taxes towards those who are living on welfare payments, and the anarchic way of life of travellers which excludes any form of hierarchy or leadership evolving.

The Irish "tinkers" were so called because they travelled around the country making and repairing tin items. With the advent of aluminium and steel, their way of life was drastically altered. Many turned to alcohol - that and the iron grip of the Catholic Church meant huge families that could not be supported without State aid.

The following are the lyrics of a poignant song penned by Ewan McColl, performed notably by the Dubliners.

The Travelling People
Ewan MacColl)
I'm a freeborn man of the travelling people
Got no fixed abode with nomads I am numbered
Country lanes and bye ways were always my ways
I never fancied being lumbered

Well we knew the woods and all the resting places
The small birds sang when winter time was over
Then we'd pack our load and be on the road
They were good old times for the rover

In the open ground where a man could linger
Stay a week or two for time was not your master
Then away you'd jog with your horse and dog
Nice and easy no need to go faster

And sometimes you'd meet up with other travellers
Hear the news or else swop family information
At the country fairs we'd be meeting there
All the people of the travelling nation

I've made willow creels and the heather besoms
And I've even done some begging and some hawkin'
And I've lain there spent rapped up in my tent
And I've listened to the old folks talking

All you freeborn men of the travelling people
Every tinker rolling stone and gypsy rover
Winds of change are blowing old ways are going
Your travelling days will soon be over

I'm a freeborn man of the travelling people
Got no fixed abode with nomads I am numbered
Country lanes and bye ways were always my ways
I never fancied being lumbered

Gorjer is a non-traveller in England, and we use lots of their words like 'wonga' for money, chokkah as in chukka boots, chavvie as in chav, so who steals from whom? Fine Carol, explain away, but let's forget the burglar stuff that Barbara is emphasising, if it was true then there would not be a free Roma anywhere!