Who are the Roma? (continued)
.... Most, however, settled in Central and Eastern Europe. Roma today, while retaining elements of the language and culture which distinguish them from non Roma people, can differ widely, because across Europe different groups have been separated for hundreds of years. The majority of Roma people live in settled communities, unlike a popular belief that most have a nomadic lifestyle.
The estimated 10 – 12 million Roma in Europe today do have in common a shared history of being enslaved, discriminated against, forcibly assimilated and persecuted. It is not always realised, for example, that the Holocaust which killed 6 million Jews was also directed against Roma. Their history has ensured that Roma are generally very much poorer than other ethnic groups in Europe.
In former communist countries extreme poverty combined with high levels of illiteracy are providing an even greater difficulties for many Roma people living in the twenty first century. Under communist rule people were generally employed even if only in poorly paid jobs. Nowadays there is widespread unemployment particularly amongst Roma, as well as them having lost other means of earning money from their traditional skills such as metal or woodworking which are much less in demand. In Romania, following accession to the EU in 2007, the situation became even worse because of the modernisation of agriculture which has meant that machines can now take over much of the work done by Roma families who could otherwise obtain unofficial casual work on the land.
Without having the basic skills of literacy and numeracy there is no way out of abject poverty for many Roma families. This is why projects such as those which improve the level of school enrolment, reduce rates of drop-out and absenteeism, and also focus on ways to remove both social and academic barriers to learning, are so important.