Supporting Roma Voices

The extra challenges posed by Brexit

GMT 18:57 Tuesday ,06 June 2017

 Migrant Voice - The extra challenges posed by Brexit

Anne Stoltenberg

Going on holiday and not being able to return home to the UK. Being made to go to a “country of origin” where there is nowhere you can live. Worries like these, and more, in the face of Brexit were voiced by Roma communities at a recent meeting of the Roma Support Group along with all the other uncertainty about their status and future that other EEA nationals in the UK also currently face.

Add to this not reporting hate crime, or not reporting bad treatment or conditions in terms of housing or work - because even if it’s bad, it’s better than conditions and discrimination in countries of origin. Being worried about declaring ethnicity when accessing support, or being afraid to access the support you are entitled to in case you are monitored or deported.

The meeting of the Roma Support Group on 2 June highlighted such concerns about Brexit and also offered practical support and answers around the Permanent Residence process through an advisor from the Lambeth Law Centre.

Listening to the legal detail of how to apply for Permanent Residence, I was struck again by how complicated the process is, especially if your life experiences don’t fit neatly into a box. What stood out, though, were the additional challenges and worries of Roma individuals and communities and in particular the brilliant work done through the Supporting Roma Voices project to address some of these.

The findings from the Supporting Roma Voices project were launched at the meeting.  The aim of the project was to support the growth of grassroots community advocacy as part of the growth of an inclusive and engaged Roma community in the UK. Delivered through the partnership of the University of Salford, the Roma Support Group and the BHA for Equality, it focused on Community Relations, Housing, Education and Employment & Social Welfare. 

Working with local advocates, the project supported community members to build their skills to advocate for themselves and their communities, and also engaged with policy makers and public bodies to support their greater inclusion of Roma communities. The study interviewed 159 Roma individuals who shared their experiences and came up with recommendations.

Among the several practical recommendations of the study, two things that stood out for me were: a) For the social inclusion of Roma in the UK to become a reality, it is a necessity for policy-makers to take into account the experiences many Roma people have of deep-seated discrimination and systematic exclusion within their countries of origin and b) for policy makers to invest in initiatives that bring together Roma and non-Roma communities with policy makers around common concerns in order to overcome prejudice and enhance social relations.

In light of the current Brexit challenges for EEA nationals including Roma communities, there should be much common ground for us as migrants here. One can only hope that it becomes a chance to bring all our voices together in solidarity to raise common issues and also to highlight the need for policy makers to listen more to Roma voices in particular.

Read the full report from the Supporting Roma Voices project here:

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