Saturday, July 2, 2011



PHOTO (Reuters) - A Roma man blows a torch as he works on a silver ring at a traditional products fair during the celebration of International Roma Day in Bucharest April 8, 2011.

Friday, July 1, 2011 11:27 AM EDT

Gypsies Face Ghettoization in Romania

In Arizona, politicians are trying to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep people out. Across the Atlantic, in an industrial city in Romania, a wall is being built to keep people in.

The local government of the city of Baia Mare in northern Romania is trying to erect a concrete wall in front of a Roma (Gypsy) neighborhood. The wall would separate the community from a main road, and human rights groups are saying that it is a government instituted attempt to "ghettoize" an ethnic community.

"Such initiatives belong to the Nazi era," the Center for Legal Resources said in an open letter to Biai Mare mayor Catalin Chereches.

"The idea to separate a community with severe social problems... amounts to institutionalized racism."

The Roma, also known as the Romani or Gypsies, form an ethnic group widely dispersed across Europe. Traditionally a traveling community with its roots traced to India, the Romani peoples are oft subject to extreme, institutionalized persecution.

Facing de facto discrimination in most European countries, the Gypsy community is economically troubled and many Romani live in slums, shanty-towns or in substandard housing. In the past, these communities have been subject to forced eviction and displacement.

Last year, the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca evicted 56 Romani families from their homes in the city center without giving them sufficient advanced notice. Similar events happen across central Europe. Last month Roma were relocated in the Czech Republic, and in April three Gypsy communities were evicted outside of Rome.

"When the authorities evict Romani communities against their will, without adequate consultation, notice or alternative housing, they are violating international treaties that the government of Romania has signed up to. This also applies to the resettlement of Romani communities to inadequate and segregated housing, " Barbora Cernusakova, Amnesty International's Researcher on Romania, said in a statement last week.

Mayor Chereches is denying that the construction of the six-foot high wall is motivated by any ethnic or racial considerations.

"It's only aimed at protecting our citizens against car crashes," Chereches told Reuters. "It's made of coated concrete instead of wood to stop people using it to make a fire."

Although the latest census reported that there were 500,000 Gypsies in Romania, some estimates put the number five times higher.

The per capita Roma population in Romania is among the highest on the continent.

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