A home for Roma
Why have thousands of Roma people left homes in eastern Europe for Newcastle? And how have they fared here? Peter Sagar reports
There are about 4,000 Roma living in Newcastle. They left the Czech Republic and Slovakia to come, as the title of a film puts it, “from Brno to Benwell”. Most live in the west end of the city, but there is also a tightly-knit Roma community on the other side of the River Tyne in the Bensham area of Gateshead. I set out to find why they came to Tyneside and what their life has been like there.
It is said that the Roma people first came to Europe from the Punjabi Region of India around 1,000 years ago. The various peoples that would become today’s European nation states had already settled, so the Roma were “late to the party” and outsiders from the beginning. Ten centuries of persecution – including pogroms, forced removals and slavery – followed, leading up to hundreds of thousands being murdered in the Holocaust – or as the Roma call it, the Porrajmos, the Devouring.
This persecution continues today in many parts of Eastern Europe. Roma children are often diverted into elementary schools with a limited curriculum. This makes it difficult for Roma to find a decent job, and even those who have had a mainstream education often find themselves at the bottom of the pile in the job market. On top of this there is vast discrimination in housing and in health provision. To many, Roma are still outsiders, to be feared and reviled…
This is an extract from the March 2014 edition of Reform.