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Roma Test Europe's Open Borders

Friday, 17 September 2010 01:19 PM

Bucharest is full of stark, Soviet-era housing blocks, and the grimmest among them — gray towers of one-room apartments with communal bathrooms and no hot water — are given over to the Roma population, The New York Times reports.

Children reflected in a puddle of water in Ferentari, a suburb of Bucharest inhabited mostly by Roma.
Roma like Maria Murariu, 62, who tends to her dying husband in a foul-smelling room no bigger than a jail cell. She has not found work in five years.

“There is not much for us in Romania,” she said recently, watching her husband sleep. “And now that we are in the European Union, we have the right to go to other countries. It is better there.”

Thousands of Romania’s Roma, also known as Gypsies, have come to a similar conclusion in recent years, heading for the relative wealth of Western Europe, and setting off a clash within the European Union over just how open its “open borders” are.

A summit meeting of European leaders on Thursday degenerated into open discord over how to handle the unwanted immigrants. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France vowed to keep dismantling immigrant camps and angrily rejected complaints from European Commission officials that the French authorities were illegally singling out Roma for deportation.

Migration within the 27 nations of the European Union has become a combustible issue during the economic downturn. The union’s latest expansion, which brought in the relatively poor nations of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, has renewed concern that the poor, traveling far from home in search of work, will become a burden on wealthier countries. The migration of the Roma is also raising questions about the obligations of Romania and Bulgaria to fulfill promises they made when they joined the union. Romania, for instance, mapped out a strategy for helping the Roma, but financed little of it. Mr. Sarkozy has demanded that the Romanian government do more to aid the Roma at home.

Read the entire story at nytimes.com

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Friday, 17 September 2010 01:19 PM
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