New voice for Manchester’s Roma gypsy community to stop ‘dependency on others’

Manchester’s Roma gypsy community are soon to be given a new voice through a project aiming to dispel negative perceptions and stop them ‘being dependent on others’.

The Roma community’s long history of poor representation at a national and local level is a problem that ‘MigRom’, a EU-funded project, in partnership with Manchester City Council, aims to tackle.

Led by academics from the University of Manchester, it aims to increase the Roma population’s access to public services, education and employment whilst at the same time trying to change the mainstream prejudices against the community.

Project Coordinator Professor Yaron Matras said: “Unlike other immigrant and ethnic minority communities the Roma have so far lacked community representation.

The main aim of our outreach work is to release Roma from being dependent on others and to encourage self-reliance.

“The presence of Roma migrants from Romania on the streets of major western European cities has triggered fierce public debates.

“We have worked to investigate the experiences, motivations, and ambitions of Roma migrants from Romania who have recently moved to Italy, France, Spain, and the UK, and the effect of migration on their own lives and on the lives of relations left behind in the home communities in Romania.”

Working alongside Manchester’s Roma community, the Manchester University team set up a community group to provide advice and support and help the Roma to take the lead on initiatives to give their community a public voice.

North West Labour MEP Afzal Khan, said: “The Roma are Europe’s largest minority. They continue to suffer exclusion and discrimination. The community group is an excellent initiative.

“It will help make Manchester a model for the integration and participation of Roma in the European Union.

One of the largest ethnic minorities in Europe, the Romani people boast an estimated population of 10-12 million across the continent.

Ramona Constantin, one of the founders of the community group, said: “We have many young people in our community who are talented and motivated.

One of our goals is to help them identify opportunities to develop their skills.”

The project, which has already seen a number of activities including Roma youngsters taking to the streets of Longsight in an attempt to show their active engagement and love for their communities, will see academic experts’ cultural and language knowledge foster local relationships with the Romani.

Dr Julian Skyrme, Director of Social Responsibility at The University of Manchester, said: “The MigRom project is an excellent example of how our world-leading research is making a difference in our most local communities.

“Our expertise on languages and culture has been used to successfully engage local Roma communities, build their capacity and help to enhance cohesion and integration in specific parts of our city.”

Image courtesy of Steve Evans, with thanks

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