By Rosa Mas Giralt
At the beginning of September, the BBC programme This World broadcast a documentary by Liviu Tipurita which followed the lives of Roma – Romany Gypsy – children on the streets of large European cities. The report followed children, under 14 years of age, who were forced to beg and steal on the streets of Madrid and Milan, places in which the Roma population has risen dramatically since Romania joined the EU in 2007. However, increasingly organized crime gangs are behind the systematic trafficking and exploitation of these young people and their profits often materialize in luxurious villas owned by the gang bosses in their native country.
Roma people are among the most vilified minorities in Europe. The film-maker searched for the root of the problem in his native Romania, where the Roma have been facing discrimination for decades and the hostility from which they have fled to try to find better lives in other parts of Europe. Unfortunately, racist backlashes have accompanied reports of increased criminality in cities like Milan and Madrid, a trend that only perpetuates the conditions within which these children are exploited.
In a forthcoming article for Area, Nick Mai reflects on the colluding geo-political forces that “hamper the identification and prioritising of ‘the best interest of the child’ in the delivery of social intervention targeting Romanian migrant minors in Italy and Romania” (2009:7). Although the research project that he reports on looked into Romanian migrant children in general, the structural elements that he analyses also play a role in the complexity of circumstances that affect Roma children. Their plight continues.