GYPSIES: They have far more to fear than we do

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It’s painful reading about the attitudes to the Roma people in the Free Press.

I worked on-site every term day for 25 years as a teacher for Cambs LEA.

It seems the Roma are the last ethnic minority to be openly reviled in this country.

They are indeed an ethnic minority (CRE v. Dutton Appeal Court 1986) and are entitled to be protected under all the terms of the Race Relations Act 1974. You wouldn’t think so reading the British press.

All the labels the Roma carry are bestowed upon them by the non-Roma community: gypsies, travellers, mumpers, lumpers, diddicois, pikies. The pikey is Scots dialect for ‘thief’: a term much loved by the police. Odd it is a word ACPO has banned from police language. So used have the people come to accepting other people’s labels they have little awareness of any Roma identity they are fully entitled to.

The prejudice is felt from the youngest years if registered into school: from parents, teachers, assistants and children. No surprise some parents would rather not expose their children to it. Yet there are some wonderful school staff, so it’s a pity some families will never know it. After age 11 girls tend to survive schooling longer than the boys who have been taught to fight if they are bullied or insulted. A few get through.

If a Roma person applies for a job and gives his address as a traveller site, then he is likely not to get the job.

So it isn’t surprising he will work for himself. If all the avenues to getting work are closed, like cheques only for scrap metal, like computer tests to gain a driving licence and so on: it is no surprise some are left with nothing but crime to make a living.

Luckily some still can get work on the land, especially during soft fruiting times. You may be eating strawberries picked by a Roma worker. I have and very nice too.

Although over half of British Roma live in houses, are literate, do go to work normally, there are the others who have to survive in caravans in all the weathers. The least we can do for them is to offer a stable base like a local authority site with fresh water facilities. They have far more to fear from us than we from them.

R Britton

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