Gypsies and human rights

TRAVELERS IN UK are most predominantly from Gypsy or Roma community. There are estimated to be 2,00,000- 3,00,000 Gypsy and Roma Travelers currently in the U K. Both of these communities are recognized ethnic groups. Each group is identified to have a shared culture ,language and belief. Gypsy and Roma communities are traditionally nomadic and it is the duty of UK legal authorities to provide sites for these groups. However, as a part of the 1994 UK Criminal Justice and Public Act, this obligation has been removed. As an outcome there are very few authorized sites for the communities. This situation has forced them to camp anywhere as and when they find a place, but the reactions are often hostile from those living in the areas where they settle.

Few examples of such luminaries are: Sonya Kavalesky, who, in 1884, became the first woman, university professor in the world in Sweden, teaching mathematics; Charles Chaplin, the legendary filmmaker; and Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States. Both Chaplin and Clinton are descendants of British Gypsies. Ian Hancock, himself a British Gypsy, in his book says “We Are the Romani People” (University of Hertfordshire Press, 2002) it also includes brief biographies of more than one hundred major Gypsy contributors to Western culture.

The Gypsy or Roma entered Eastern Europe and parts of the former Russian Empire and the Soviet Union during the Middle Ages from northern India. There are some myths, though that place gypsies in central Asia as early as the fifth century A.D., while some Macedonian Roma folk myths trace their roots back to Alexander the great in the fourth century B.C. The community endured expulsions, since they newly arrived in Europe, they faced forcible removal of children, servitude in galleys or mines, death sentences for being a Gypsy, and absolute slavery in the Balkans from 16th century on wards.

The persecution persist, especially in Central and Eastern Europe where Roma formed up to 10 % of population (Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania).Due to discriminated under communism, their plight has dramatically worsened since 1989.Common problem like low life expectancy, poor medical facilities, high illiteracy, poverty and poor housing results to unemployment. The community has become a scapegoat for post communal society ills.