A Story From the Roma Perspective

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Credit: Capucine Granier-Deferre for Le Monde.

There has not been much coverage of the Roma issue from…the Roma perspective. Most people, this blog included, are much more concerned with the political debate (which Minister is right or wrong? Who sounds more right-wing?), than with the social reality. If not grudgingly, than tardily, the French press is now begginning to go investigate the everyday Roma reality and ask a few Roma the question of what, in fact, they really want: do they want to assimilate in France?

Le Monde had an interesting story today about a few Roma families who’ve been settled for several years now in some abandoned houses in a tiny town not far from the small central city of Poitiers. The matriarch of one of the families has actually been living in France since 2003 and speaks French. She used to live in the overcrowded encampaments of the Paris region and moved out to the provinces a few years ago in search of something more peaceful, she says. She was recently served notice to get out within five months. Many of the Roma kids in these families (of the 18 people, 11 are children) can’t go to school because the mayor of the little town (just over 800 residents), who has to outsource local kids to a school in a village nearby, says he can’t afford the additional 5000 Euros it would cost to send these Roma kids who just arrived, mid-year, as well.

A number of other families have been there for several years as well and, the article describes, most of them work “in metal”, gathering and reselling scrap metal. Others have a few used-auto businesses, fixing and reselling old cars. The story’s point is to show that some Roma, against the odds and the desires of most locals, evidently are trying to make a living and make a life in France.

But what mostly emerges–rather than a desire to make a living and life in France–is the near universal desire among all the Roma interviewd to, above all else, not go back to Romania. Like most economic migrants, that they ended up in France is partially just chance…the point is less about assimilating somewhere than just not going back.

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