More ‘huddled masses’ yearning to claim benefits

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UK’s Roma population much higher than previously thought

New research estimates that there are 200,000 Roma living in the UK, despite government claims two years ago that “relatively few” had settled in the country

By Hayley Dixon

30 Oct 2013

Britain has one of the largest Roma populations in western Europe as around 200,000 immigrants have set up home in the country, a new study has found.

The figures contradict government claims made in 2011 that “relatively few Roma citizens” were living in the UK. A report prepared for the Department of Children School and Families in 2009 estimated that there was around 49,204 Roma living in England.

The new research comes as the row continues over how many immigrants will arrive in the country when restrictions on workers from Romania and Bulgaria are relaxed in January.

Most of the immigrants who have set up home in Britain have arrived since a number of eastern European countries joined the European Union in 2004, the research from the University of Salford suggests.

The study, seen by Channel 4 News, concludes that the immigrant Roma population is “significant” and “increasing”. The 200,000 figure is said to be a “conservative estimate”.

Dr Philip Brown, who carried out the research, said: “The communities are quite diverse, they are spread across the UK.”

It is impossible to estimate how many migrants might arrive in the UK, if any[!], when the restrictions are lifted early next year, he added.

The majority of the population, 183,000, are believed to live in England. Yorkshire and the Humber, London, the North West and the Midlands have been identified as areas where there are large numbers of Roma living.

Across Europe Spain has the largest Roma population, 750,000, followed by France, 400,000.

With a population of around 12 million, Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe, but often find themselves living in extreme poverty and subjected to discrimination.

The harsh conditions they find in other countries are a “push factor” when deciding to come to Britain, the research suggests [and our welfare state – social housing, housing benefit, taxpayer-funded treatment on the NHS, etc – is a ‘pull’ factor when deciding to come to Britain].

However, the rapid increase in numbers has posed a challenge for local authorities, it was found.

Gulnaz Hussain, who runs an advice centre for immigrants in Sheffield said that the number of people coming into the area was a “trickling process” but has led to a huge influx.

“The schools are full more or less. I don’t think we could accommodate more people arriving. I don’t think there’s any more room to house further people,” she told C4 News.

Many of the Roma in the UK are believed to have come from Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

Miroslav Sandor, who arrived in the country from Slovakia in 2004 and is a community worker in Sheffield helping new arrivals, said: “We came here for a better life, having a job, having education for my children. “I want to see a future. There was no future for me in Slovakia.”

David Brown, who also heads up a national “Roma Network”, which provides advice and assistance to local authorities, said that the immigrants are escaping from areas where they have been “excluded and discriminated against for centuries”.

Some are spat at in the street, he says, while some political parties endorse vigilante groups who attack the minority. [And how do the Roma behave in these countries?]

“No wonder they want to leave those places, and no wonder they want to come here,” he said. [Yes, they have heard about our welfare state, public services free at the point of use and taxpayer-funded benefits].

He said it was important the “myths” and prejudices surrounding Roma communities do not become entrenched in Britain.

Human rights groups have recently issued warnings over anti-Roma prejudices after families in Ireland and Greece came under the spotlight over child abduction allegations [All such allegations must be thoroughly investigated and not dismissed out of hand as having been made against a privileged ‘minority’ group].