More From Alder's Ledge

October 5, 2012

Villagers With Pitchforks

Putting the Flame to Roma Homes
(Part of The Darkness Visible series)

Roma Camp Set Ablaze in Italy December 2011

It turns out you can be just about anything in Europe and the Europeans will accept you for the most part. You can be a communist who sets up squats in Denmark where you can push drugs of all sorts. You can be a right wing hack and join the Jobbik party in Hungary. The one thing you can't be in Europe if you want to live in peace... Romani. 

On September 28Th, 2012 in Marseille France a group of 28 vigilantes set a Roma camp on fire. They claim they did the right thing since they did avoid the loss of life and for the most part kept the reports of violence stifled. To back up their claims they have reported that they had contacted the government with their concerns about the Roma and nothing had been done to evict the "undesirables".

For the first time in Alder's Ledge's history it seems that France's government actually backed away from the opportunity to deport a group of Romani. It however is less admirable that the French government did so knowing that the locals in Marseille were planning to take action against the Roma. And that appears to be the reason that the French police were slow to respond to the complaints and never showed up to stop the arsonist when the camp went ablaze.

This sort of attack is becoming more and more common as the governments of Western Europe experience the effects of global recession and the side effects of Europe's union... in which borders become hard to identify. When a government like France's decides to step back from its attacks on Romani (both those who have lived in France all their lives and those coming from Eastern Europe) the locals take action to continue the violence the government started. To add to this the Roma in Eastern Europe continue to flood Western Europe due to countries like Bulgaria and the Romania joining the European Union. 

This recent wave of Romani from Eastern Europe are coming to the West due to the fact that countries in the Eastern half of Europe do not grant them citizenship or even civil liberties. Romania, for example, bans all Roma from voting or from moving from one city to the next without permission. The Balkan states refuse to allow Roma any form of participation in their government or the communities day to day life. And in countries like Hungary, long part of the EU, Roma rarely are defended in court when they are the victims of crimes (both violent and sexual). 

It only makes sense for a person subjected to these sorts of prejudice and discrimination that they would want to venture to the Western half of Europe. Places like France, Germany, and Italy all look like the land of milk and honey compared to Serbia or Romania. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you are banned from employment in Romania that you would gladly illegally immigrate to France. 

With this said it should be easy for anyone to see that the Roma of Eastern Europe will always be more than willing to put up with people like these in Marseille, France. And it will take a lot more than a giant brick wall, like the one the residents of Beja Portugal erected to keep the Roma out of sight, to keep the flood of Romani from coming west. This migration has been spurred by the image of tolerance the West has portrayed to the world for decades. It is a migration of people who have been oppressed and tormented in Russia, Romania, the Ukraine, and the Balkans. They just want to live, and live free. 

So it leaves us to ask, why in the land of opportunity, tolerance, and peace can you not be a Roma? Why is it that the Europeans of today are so eager to forget the lessons of the Porajamos and resort back to the intolerance their ancestors fought to destroy? 

Have we learned nothing in the past 70 years?

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