The European Roma seem to live in absolute squalor. Effects of bigotry or lifestyle choice?

Whenever something about the European Roma comes up the pictures shown people living in horrific conditionsin the middle of industrialized European nations equivalent to the worst of Appalachian squalor. To the best of my understanding they have lived for centuries like this.

Is this due mainly to bias and bigotry or a refusal to blend into the national culture?

This is just my personal opinion on the matter. I am not a fan of the Roma people in the least and I learned it through experience, not through anything anyone else ever taught me. Their whole culture is based on wandering, stealing, scams and living outside of the societies that host them. It is very old lineage although no one knows exactly where they originated from in the first place or how they came to be. It is a little like what would happen if the inhabitants of the trailer parks of America started wandering the Earth and were still going strong several hundred years from now as their own closed society. There is nobody else doing it to them. It is a self-directed set of circumstances and there are very good reasons why they aren’t accepted in the places they have chosen as their temporary home.

That isn’t to say that any Roma people can’t break away from their legacy and make good. They do sometimes but the ones that stay in it are not compatible with normal society.

Some people in Europe, Roma and not, live in squalor. They occasionally make the news.

Most European Roma won’t live in squalor any more than everybody else. Those Roma who live in regular houses, go to school and so forth do not make the news. Did you hear that the age of consent just got raised in Spain? That’s Roma-related news, since the old age of 13 was set that way because our Roma used to get married that young; the first requests to change it came from Roma organizations, from Roma who know how to use the system… but did any of that make the news where you live?

In England the Gypsies and their fellow-travellers, the Travellers, normally get in the news for holding horse fairs and for buying up land and building on it without planning permission. Violent and thieving they might be, but not poor.

My most direct experience of the Roma came from a family who were near neighbors when I first moved to Indiana. They rented a house two doors down from us. There were a lot of people in the home, but I saw nothing to indicate they were any more or less in “squalor” than anyone else on the block. Sure, the kids made a mess in the yard, but kids do that, and collect junk, and stuff like that. On garbage pick up days their bins were on the curb just like everyone else’s, and they had fewer junk vehicles up on blocks than than many of the redneck neighbors.

Even the “encampments” shown in the OP link don’t look any different than the homeless camps I’ve seen here in the US, which are full of non-Roma living in identical conditions.

I don’t think the Roma choose to live in junk cars/squalor/disintegrating RV’s/whatever, it’s what they currently have available to them. The analogy to US “trailer trash” isn’t too far off the mark - it’s a sub-culture largely mired in poverty that frequently clashes with the mainstream culture.

And yes, I think racism plays a part. The fact that they are not considered citizens of the countries where they live also cuts them off from the social safety net. If people won’t hire the Roma due to prejudice, and they have no access to the social safety net, then how are they supposed to survive other than crime and living in a tent? Of course, not all Roma are criminals but that’s the perception and it does affect how all of them are treated. I don’t have stats, but I’ve heard the Roma in the US tend to be better off and less likely to be involved in crime and I can’t help but think it’s because there is less bias against them, and it may also be easier for them to blend in.

It’s a bit problematic to take Europe as a whole.

In Romania there is severe discrimination against Roma, so much so that I’m pretty sure it is difficult for them to escape poverty. People will warn you not to touch them because they are dirty, they’ll kick at begging children etc.

In the Netherlands, when you hear of problems arising, they tend to be actual problems, around actual issues. Problems about school attendance, benefits, building permission, violence, theft, these kinds of things. Also, I haven’t personally seen any abject poverty of Roma in the Netherlands. If there is “squalor”, it’s sometimes the addressing of that issue that leads to conflict. Eg a town council says “get rid of that pile of rubbish, it’s attracting pests”, then penis ensues.

In the UK too, there is some discrimination of Travellers and gypsies, but there are also real social problems. Here is an article that has a picture that I associate with Travellers in the UK. It also addresses the issues people face there.

A problem in western European countries remains access to facilities. If you don’t have European citizenship because you are stateless and you are also nomadic, that will make it difficult to get benefits or other help. It’s a difficult group to provide for. Even if there were no discrimination, if they show up somewhere asking for financial assistance of some kind and are asked for place of residence, citizenship and the answer to all of those is “none” then it doesn’t tend to work very well with the system.

ETA: I really don’t want to downplay the importance of discrimination. There is definitely discrimination. But at the same time, in many places the discrimination is not to the extent that if Roma decided to settle permanently, take on citizenship, etc they would be denied jobs, be socially excluded denied benefits etc. That is also a legitimate problem, and one that might also be discrimination: discriminating against people who don’t fit into your state’s system. But that isn’t the same discrimination as “you people are scum”-discrimination, and it’s perhaps more difficult to do something about.

It’s not that they choose squalor, that would be poverty. There was an article a couple of years ago, about some Roma families that had become rich. Their new houses had a lot of bling.

I worked with a Roma woman whose family had “assimilated” in her grandfather’s generation. I assumed she was Mediterranean by appearance and Slavic by name, and it was a surprise when she told a casual lunch group she was Roma. This was in California, so it may not be representative of much of anything.

Each European country has very different situation so you just cannot generalize.

Without being judgmental the universal fact is that in any human culture a minority who wants to live by its own customs which are in conflict whith those of the majority is going to “be discriminated” against by the majority.

In Spain the are not nomads but have been settled for long time. In some ways they are integral part of Spanish life and culture (flamenco, etc.) and are not discriminated merely by the fact of being gypsies (which is the term they prefer in Spanish: gitano). Gypsy culture in Spain in many ways is an integral part of Spanish culture and Spanish culture today would not be complete without gypsy culture.

Quite a few are rich and famous artists very much integrated in mainstream society. Many have succeeded economically either in the arts or in commerce and may live in houses or apartments mixed with the general population. You might hear some complaint about them being noisy, or dirty or having bad taste but that is about it.

Other, poorer, large groups segregate themselves from mainstream society. They live in settlements or blocks where they self-segregate because they insist in keeping lifestyle habits which are incompatible with mainstream culture. There are quite a few such settlements in Spain which are hugely problematic.

Entire families and clans live in squalor. They have no skills or education or job possibilities. Many make a few euros by begging or selling in street markets and flea markets. Others try to make a living by collecting scrap metal, stealing, dealing drugs, etc. There are entire settlements where the police only dares to enter in force and even then they have problems.

Without being judgmental it is an objective fact that they are (and suffer) a huge problem. One which is difficult or impossible to resolve. With no education or skills they cannot get jobs and are forced into lives of petty crime.

Few realize that the way out of poverty is to give their children an education and skills which would allow them to integrate in their adulthood. On the contrary, they want to keep their culture and use the kids in their criminal activities. Roma children are taught to shoplift and steal very young, especially because the parents know the kids are immune from prosecution. One common thing they do is steal mobile phones from cafe tables or pick pockets in public transportation.

More recently there have been waves of Romanian gypsies coming to Spain and they are not as settled but still settle in camps. Although they might move they do not roam around as a way of life. The also try to make a few euros by begging or selling but mostly by petty theft.

A lot of the burglaries in rural Spain and of the theft of crops is done by gypsies.

It is easy to say that they are victims of prejudice but, at least in Spain, the problem is quite complex. It is just a fact that you cannot maintain a lifestyle outside mainstream society while wanting to benefit from the advantages such a society has to offer. When you raise unschooled children you are forcing them into an adult life of misery or crime. Romany in Spain are a very small proportion of the population and yet are significantly represented in the crime scenery.

Of course, I am sure many make a living as street vendors etc. Others pick up scrap metal. One can only sympathize with humble people who try to make an honest living.

But then when you get into the criminal world, the drug and arms trafficking, Roma are a huge part of it. There are large settlements where it is extremely dangerous to go unless you are there to buy drugs or arms.

They have their turf and clan wars which result in shootouts and family wars.

Every so often police raids confiscate drugs and arms.

The worst drug markets in Spain are run by Roma. Cañada Real in Madrid and “Las Vegas” in Sevilla are two of them. Just recently a little girl was killed in a shootout and stabbings are a daily thing. Once a war gets started it just goes on. They refuse to use the country’s police or court system and they settle their own affairs with their own wars. They see the legal authorities as outsiders and try to keep them out of their affairs.

A culture where teenagers have no skills or education and have several children of their own by the time they are 20 is a culture which is going to have serious problems surviving in an advanced world so different from that.

They can claim discrimination but if all society were like that we would all be worse off. They, in fact, benefit from health care and services provided by a richer society.

It is not a matter of prejudice from mainstream society. It is mainly a matter of Romany wanting to maintain a separate culture and identity and this is just not viable. It is very well to say they should be able to do it but it is not possible. They want to have their own laws apart from the laws of the country, to settle their own affairs their own way, this is just not possible. You cannot be having your own turf and family wars.

Another recent example was that the patriarch of a clan was in the hospital and the entire extended family of several dozen people wanted to camp out in the hospital lobby while he was there. Police had to be called in to explain they could not camp there inside the hospital and they had to leave. (And, even though they pay no taxes, they get free health care just like everybosy else

Similar situations often arise when Romany live in apartments because they have a hard time adapting to the constraints of such life. This is the same problem facing some minorities in America.

The situation has been made more complicated with the arrival of many Romanian Romany who are even less able to integrate. They beg or steal because that is all they can do in this terrible economy. I guess they prefer Spain because back in Romania they are victims of prejudice which they do not find in Spain. Still, they cannot integrate and live on the margins of society.

It is just not possible today to make a decent living by ocassionally picking up scrap metal on the street or by begging. People who try to do that are often finally forced to steal. People who do not prepare their children with a good education are condemning their children to a very bleak future.

Of course there is bad feeling from those who have been their victims of theft (and I am one of them) but people also recognize that some people are forced by circumstances and that it is not realistic (or moral) to tell them to starve rather than resort to petty theft.

There are organizations which try to help them, mostly run by Romany who have integrated, but it is a very complex and difficult task. Here is one.

There used to be a a Roma representative in the governmentírez_Heredia

Government programs try to get them out of shacks and give them apartments. Invariably a few years later the apartment blocks are hellholes where metal wiring and fixtures have been sold for scrap and they live in squalor in their own world.

It is mainly a cultural problem in that they cannot or will not integrate but for those who would I cannot say there is any significant discrimination. Spanish society in general has a high level of solidarity and anyone would be considered a monster if he said gypsies (or even illegal aliens) should not be entitled to free health care or any other government programs.

Indeed, recently, due to Spain’s financial troubles, one of the economic measures imposed by the Troika was an end to free health care for illegal immigrants and the Spanish Government has tried to impose this but most doctors, hospitals and local authorities have refused to go along. Doctors have said they have a duty to care for any human who needs care regardless of nationality or ability to pay. And the culture and the country is behind them. It is very different from America where selfishness and individualism is the rule in politics and culture.

Also, all this is not only a problem with Gypsies, there are entire subworlds of immigrants from Morocco, Latin America and other countries who suddenly find themselves not integrated and crime becomes an attractive option if not the only option. It is not that the Spanish population are intrinsically more honest but they are more integrated and have more family and social resources which they can use.

That was my grandmothers family, who left Eastern Europe as Romani and arrived at Ellis Island as Romanian. So they chose to emigrate and “pass” to get rid of the bigotry - lived in poverty in the U.S. as Eastern European immigrants through the depression, but worked hard in the stockyards of St. Paul. This would have been just post WWI that they moved.

Here’s an interesting documentary about the Roma. It doesn’t appear to sugarcoat anything, but it does tell a story that isn’t all “Roma suck”:

The take-home message seems to be that how the host country handles them makes a big difference. Deny them papers of citizenship, and you will find them living in horrible squalor with no jobs and no education. Allow them to assimilate on their own terms, and you will find them doing relatively well.

Certainly there are aspects of the culture that I find bizarre (the big dress thing in Finland, the virginity hankerchief thing in Spain, etc.), but since no one is forcing me to become a Roma, why should I care? However, I can see how these cultural differences could contribute to discrimination. People don’t like “different”. So what’s the socially climbing Roma person to do? Put away all the things they identify with so as to appease mainstream society? Or keep up with tradition and hope the support from same-minded friends and family will see them through the hard times? It’s the same story that other ethnic and racial minorities have had to contend with various success. Perhaps the lack of a true homeland to reconnect with makes it especially hard for them to give up the old ways.

Appease mainstream society? Let’s get serious. They do not need to “appease” anybody. What they need to do is follow the laws of the country of which they are citizens and to which they belong. They do not get a free pass like nobody else does.

When their “culture” means having their children playing outside in the muck and not being schooled and perpetuating a cycle of poverty and crime then I have a problem with it and it is not because they are “different” but because they commit crimes. If your “culture” is a culture of stealing from others then I have a problem with that. Everybody is subject to the laws and being Roma is no exception.

Taxpayers do not like to see millions spent in giving them housing so they can then sell all the pipes and wiring for scrap metal and totally destroy the place which cost millions in taxpayer money.

I am sympathetic and understand that the kid is not at fault for having been born Roma and not receiving any education or useful training but the cycle has to stop somewhere.

And if their “culture” is inextricably linked with a lifestyle of stealing and being a drag on a society which tries to help them then I have no problem saying they should get their own separate country but cannot expect to drag the rest of us into their medieval world.

Nobody is objecting to their fancy clothes or customs. People are objecting to them breaking the laws.

In years pat they would blow through my area after a big storm as “roofers”. After taking part or all the money up front they would disappear without completing the job. They are their own worst enemy.

They are not? :confused: I’m reasonably sure that doesn’t apply to all countries where they live. Spain just lost about 650000 people, if it turns out our gypsies aren’t Spaniards.

Sometimes they aren’t permanent residents. I know that in some places they could quite easily apply for citizenship, but some refuse. I think the article I linked to mentions that.

OK, but the way Broomstick put it, it was a “never”, not a “sometimes”. The difference is very big.

It’s very different to be a migrant, Roma or payo, black, white or polka-dot, than to be stateless.

Nah they’re just bad.