Roma Society Scotland: Scottish politicians “don’t lift a finger” for Roma community


Report into Roma community in Scotland finds unprecedented problems of poor housing provision and unemployment

A LEADING figure in the Roma Society Scotland (RSS) has told a Scottish interfaith anti-racism conference that Scotland lacks the political will to alleviate the dire conditions faced by Scotland’s Roma people.

Speaking at the Scottish Churches Racial Justice conference, RSS’s Ilya Shterev expressed frustration at Scottish politicians at all levels, and asserted that a national strategy was needed to integrate the 4,000-5,000 Roma currently living in Scotland.

Speaking to the conference in Paisley’s Wallneuk Church on Sunday (12 September), Shtereve said: “Everyone talks about helping the Roma, yet they don’t lift a finger.

“Segregated and overcrowded, often without electricity or heat, here in Glasgow in the 21st century.

“The UN has called on member countries to improve the conditions of the Roma. But what we have is a lack of political will.”

He added that until now the approach to the Roma community from both successive Scottish government and local authorities had lacked a strategic drive that left the community to be catered for by underfunded third sector and voluntary organisations.

“Unless government on both national and local levels get together, charities and NGO’s will achieve little.

“Look around at the situation we are in, it hasn’t improved.

“There must be a Roma integration strategy, from the top down, but empowering small organisations like ours.

“And most importantly, Roma people need to be involved in the strategy to alleviate our conditions.”

Ilya Shterev speaks at the 2016 Scottish Churches Racial Justice Group

Shterev made the comments before the official launch of the Scottish Church’s Racial Justice Group and Community Infosource report into the conditions experienced by the Roma in Scotland for 2016, which uncovered the extent of unemployment and workplace discrimination, overcrowding and poor housing faced by Roma people.

Around 4,000-5,000 Roma have moved to Scotland since the accession of more Eastern European countries to the EU free movement zone. In 2004m the first migrants arrived mainly from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, with a second wave coming in 2007 from Bulgaria and Romania.

A large majority settled in Glasgow’s Govanhill, the most multicultural and densely populated community in Scotland, where they experience problems from overcrowded living conditions to employment on zero-hours contracts.

Scottish Roma people did not have access to some public services until 2014, and a long history of political, state, social and industrial discrimination against the Roma across Europe has left them with chronic problems.

One key issue identified in the report is the extent of overcrowding and landlord exploitation of the Govanhill Roma, whose poverty makes them prey for unscrupulous property owners.

One finding in the report was that Roma were over-represented in the community’s overcrowding problem, with Govanhill having 55 per cent more overcrowded households than Glasgow as a whole. Ninety-three per cent of housing in Govanhill is owned by private landlords, and Roma find themselves trapped in the private rented sector.

The report also identified that the main source of Roma employment in Scotland was the so called ‘grey economy’ including manual work for as little as £1-2 per hour. Roma workers were also over represented in zero-hours contract work in food processing in both rural and urban settings.

The UK Government has responsibility for some 300,000 Roma, with devolution of major issues affecting the Roma to Scotland including housing, education, health and employment covered by the Scottish substrategy for the integration of the Roma community, which also has pockets of population in Fife, Edinburgh and a few other locations.

“Forgotten victims”: Glasgow set for historic Roma Holocaust commemoration

However, Sheila Arthur of Community Infosource said that the Scottish component of the UK Roma integration strategy, the so called Scottish road-map, had made little headway.

“This Scottish road map isn’t making a great amount of progress

“There’s a terrible housing situation, its very difficult to access employment. Poverty makes a huge impact, families are just surviving day to day,” she said.

Shterev said the approach of Scotland’s governing authorities must change.

He said: “Glasgow and Scotland have taken a passive view, when we need a direct and practical approach

“We are marginalised and suppressed, we just want take our community up to the next level.”

Picture courtesy of Facebook

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.