History is repeating itself in a terrifying way as Europe’s Romani population faces increased hostility, discrimination, marginalization and poverty. I have previously written about the ethnic registration of Romani people perpetrated by Swedish police. Those of us living in Sweden have in recent months also seen an influx of destitute Romani people making their way here from Romania, in order to attempt to make a living from begging. In Romania, Romani people often live in ghettos, with an incredibly high rate of drug addiction and crime. These awful conditions have prompted some Romani people to painstakingly make their way to Sweden, where they hope to be able to survive from street begging — it should go without saying the amount of money they get from this is in many cases very slight, and that only extreme poverty can explain this desperate move. But for some people, the money they manage to save up means the difference between life and death when they return to Romania.
The Swedish state is apparently devoted to make everything even worse for these migrants. A group of migrants of about a hundred gathered sticks and some tarps and made a camp of small houses in the Stockholm suburb of Högdalen, only to be evicted by police and have their cabins torn town. They relocated, with the help of local activists, to another empty plot of land in the suburb Sollentuna where they rebuilt their houses. But after living there for a couple of weeks, the migrants were served with a new eviction notice on March 11th. Not only was it in Swedish, making it impossible for the migrants to understand it, but it gave them less than two days notice; they were to leave the camp before 7 AM on the 13th.
These evictions are vicious attacks by the state and municipality on an incredibly vulnerable segment of society. The land in Sollentuna is claimed by the municipality itself, and is unused and unimproved. The migrants have done nothing but peacefully homestead the land, building their houses with their own hands. Obnoxiously, these attacks are partly carried out under the pretext that living in these houses is “undignified,” which makes about as much sense as breaking someone’s crutches because it is “undignified” that they should need them to walk. The real cause for these policies is that the politicians and the white middle class do not want poor Romani people in their country. Representatives from the municipality even “offered” the migrants bus tickets to Romania. The message seems clear: If you are going to starve, you will have to do it in the ghettos of Romania.
In response to the eviction, around thirty activists mobilized on the 13th to resist it. Around 8 AM, the activists had formed a human chain and managed to push back the police. Around 2 PM, when I myself had gained knowledge of what was going on and joined the protest, the police had received substantial reinforcements, and again mobilized to carry out the eviction. We sat arm in arm in the houses, but after a while the police carried us away and placed us in a bus, later to be dropped off far from the scene, most of us suspected of what is called “disobedience towards law enforcement.”
The houses were all torn down. It appears that around half of the migrants went back to Romania, and about thirty where given temporary places to sleep by activists. The future is looking dark for these migrants, as well as for the hundreds of thousands or poor Romani people living in an increasingly cold and brutal Europe. It is not easy to come up with simple ideas of how to remedy this extreme poverty in the short run. But one thing is clear: the state’s evictions and callous demolition of the roof over their heads will make things much worse.
Translations for this article:
- Swedish, Stoppa vräkningarna av migranter.
Citations to this article:
- David Grobgeld, Swedish evictions of Romani settlements should end now, Taiwan Sun [Taiwan], 03/18/14
- David Grobgeld, Swedish evictions of Romani settlements should end now, Cambodian Times [Cambodia], 03/18/14
- David Grobgeld, Swedish evictions of Romani settlements should end now, India Gazette [India], 03/18/14
- David Grobgeld, Swedish evictions of Romani settlements should end now, Malaysia Sun [Malaysia], 03/18/14
- David Grobgeld, Swedish evictions of Romani settlements should end now, China Post [Taiwan], 03/18/14