Who is that standing on the street corner or the underground exit? The generic Eastern European man, the older mother wearing a babushka or the Romanian gypsy beggars? These images have become common place for Londoners but do we see past the façades. Who are the people behind the stereotypes and what are their lives like in the UK?
I am Cezar. I am Romanian by birth and I moved here 13 years ago. I am not Roma, but have conducted field research with Romanians of Roma ethnicity working and living in London. This research has been sponsored by European Institute, UCL. In this blog series, I will discuss how the current legal situation impacts the lives of Romanians migrating to work and live in London.
In January 2007, Romania joined the European Union but without full membership – temporary work restrictions still apply against A2 nationals (from Romania and Bulgaria). With this Romania became half-in the EU and half out: we have restrictions on our working and travelling rights in other EU countries until December 2013 when the restrictions will end.
[h3]Roma and Romanian: What’s the difference?[/h3]
In the UK, misinformation about Romanian Roma is everywhere. Mostly, in the sensationalist tabloid press (such as this and this) The Romanian Roma are an ethnic minority of 2 million Roma people in the UK (by unofficial figures). Roma in Europe and Asia Minor however, are estimated to be between 4 – 9 million, and even as high as 14 million. Romanian citizens (of non-Roma and Roma ethnicity) speak the same official language and face the same legal restrictions in terms of free movement for workers.
Roma groups across Europe are not all the same in terms of sense of commonness, autonomy, language and nomadic tradition. There is not one shared Romani language, but up to five main dialects. There are still some small nomadic communities of Roma in Europe. In the contemporary Europe though, the ‘Roma mobility problem’ often implies that the Roma people who practice nomadism are a threat to the sedentary way of life in Europe. Why do you think this paradox still exists?
[h3]Romanians in the UK[/h3]
From my field observations, I have noted that the boundaries become invisible between Romanian Roma and non-Roma citizens when in the UK. Both groups work together and some share accommodation and we both face the same legal restrictions. I found during my research that the majority of men congregating on Seven Sisters Road are of Roma ethnicity.
The 2012 report by OECD shows that 289,000 Romanians entered the UK in 2010, of which 24,600 were students. It is impossible to identify how many of these Romanian citizens are also Roma because this data is not collected. From my estimation. only about ten percent could be of Roma ethnicity. The Department for Work and Pensions indicate that from the total number of permanent immigrants that migrated to the UK in 2011 only a small number (12,814) of Romanian migrants were employed or self-employed, and a very small proportion (1,582) were working on qualified positions in business, services or vocational training, work experience, and student internships. This disparity in the number of Romanians and small proportion on legal work permits will be analysed in future blogs and is a major issue for the community in London.
While Romanian nationals are waiting for restrictions to be lifted in Dec 2013, we are currently vulnerable to illegality, debt bondage, poverty abuse, criminal charges, sentences and the risk of being in this country with expired documents. EU institutions and governments need to provide practical solutions if Romanian citizens’ problems with mobility and work in Europe are to change.
This blog series aim to show and analyse how the present circumstances impact on the lives of Romanian Roma migrating to work and live in London. Click on the links below to read more:
- Main challenges that impact on the lives of Romanian migrants seeking work in London
- Four profiles of Romanian Roma men and women
- What would you choose? The practical choices faced by Romanians living in the UK
- Recommendations: What next? to policy makers to improve the lives of A2 migrants