Mapping the Invisible - EU-ROMA Gypsies – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Mapping the Invisible - EU-ROMA Gypsies
Edited by Lucy Orta
Published by Black Dog Publishing April 2010
Paperback 192 pages 153 b/w and color illustrations 11.5 x 8.5 in
ISBN: 978-1-906155-91-9
UK £24.95 US $29.95

Mapping the Invisible is the first publication dedicated to Gypsies of the European Union.

Gypsies are constantly in the news and Gypsy folk bands are rising up the charts. “Mapping the Invisible” expands on this and takes a more complete look at the culture and lifestyle of the Romani Gypsies, unfortunately though, and this detracts from a great quality book, all under the term Roma, which is incorrect, especially when also Irish Travellers are being incorporated.

Mapping the Invisible: EU-Roma Gypsies takes the reader on a visual journey across Europe with a focus on its fastest-growing ethnic minority: the Romani, the Gypsy People.

It is sad though that the editor and writers of this book fall into the trap created by the academics and people with a vested interest and call all of the Romani People Roma, which is incorrect. The Roma are but one part of the Romani; others are the Sinti, to which the Romanichals belong, and the Cale (Kale). There are Kale in Spain and Kale in Wales (United Kingdom) as well as Kale in Finland.

Then, in the same breath, they have included, as I have indicated already, yet again, more than likely due to bad advice, the Irish Travellers in the whole and while it may be correct that some Irish Travellers have married with Romanichals and Romanichals with Irish Travellers in general there is not much love lost between them and the Romanichals want little if anything to do with them.

Irish Travellers are not Romani and definitely not Roma, though there are some Irish Gypsies that are of Romani origin. In general, however, the Irish Traveller is no more Romani than the ordinary Gadje, the non-Romani. It is not the lifestyle that makes one Romani, that makes one Gypsy but the Blood that courses through one's veins.

This publication is the result of a unique partnership called EU-ROMA, formed by a group of architects, designers and artists wishing to raise awareness of the diversity and richness of the Roma people. The book shows us the EU-ROMA projects conducted together with the Gypsy communities in Romania, Greece, Italy and the UK.

The EU-ROMA partnership was formed as a result of European Community funding, linking the four countries, with the emphasis on an open dialogue on Roma housing issues and public space. The outcomes of EU-ROMA form the heart of this book.

It is also a shame that the writers of this book have not realized that Gypsy and Gypsies is written with a capital first letter, as any ethnic groups and not a lowercase one.

What no one seems to mention when they talk about Gypsy housing in the UK is the fact – unless I have missed it in the book – that residents on Gypsy Caravan Sites provided by the local authorities, whether borough or county level, have no security of tenure, unlike those that rent ordinary council houses.

The Gypsy on a site, even though he will pay rent, council tax, and all the rest has no rights of his plot on which he parks his trailer, his caravan and also the castle doctrine of the inviolability of a home and no search without a warrant and due course does not apply to him.

Should the police raid a Gypsy site all trailers will be searched, and that often in the most demeaning, to a Gypsy, manner.

Britain is seen by many as a bastion of liberty and equal rights and human rights but that does not extend to the Gypsy population who have been here for hundreds of years if not longer even. The Gypsy is a third class citizen, if he is even regarded as a citizen, in Britain.

It is that that must be brought out as well in books. We know how bad it is in the rest of Europe, in Italy, in Hungary, in Romani, Bulgaria, etc. Little is said, however, as to the human rights violations against the indigenous Romani in Britain and also in Germany.

The great European beacons of freedom and justice are not thus when it comes too the Gypsy. Let us not forget that.

“Mapping the Invisible - EU-ROMA Gypsies” is a very interesting book that has, as far as general housing ideas for Gypsies, quite some good food for thought as well, as long as the People would just be allowed to do things for themselves in this department.

A good and interesting book that is being degraded by the fact that the research has not been done in the right places as regards to the understanding of who or what the Romani are and how they are constituted and also as to the fact that at times the noun Gypsy is not written as one.

The book could have gotten a 10 out of 10 were it not for those issues and can therefore only be given a 7 out of 10. Such a shame.

© 2010

Sinti and Roma in Germany protest against “marginalization”

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma (Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti und Roma) demands that the Gypsy victims of the Holocaust shall be represented by a speaker of their own People for the opening of the Documentation Center of the Nazi Time “Topography of the Terror” (Topographie des Terrors).

It cannot be justified that the genocide on the Sinti and Roma should be marginalized at the ceremony in the grounds of the former Nazi Terror control center in Berlin said the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma Tuesday, May 4, 2010, and rightly so.

The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, will speak on Thursday, May 6, 2010, on behalf of all groups of victims, said a speaker for the “Topography of the Terror” in reply to a media request.

This means once again the Romani People are being denied their voice and representation in this.

At least half a million – a very conservative estimate – of Sinti and Roma were murdered by the Nazis in Germany and in the occupied territories and some studies talk of at least 1.5 million to even 2 million murdered Gypsies.

But, once again, the Jewish-dominated Holocaust memorial machinery will not permit Gypsies their rightful place, for lack of a better word, for the Romani People were persecuted for the same reasons as the Jews, namely for reasons of Race. Time this was understood by the Jews and others.

All too often, however, one finds that Jews will comment that Jews were persecuted for reasons of race but Gypsies were only sent to the gas because of them having been asocial.

It is, in my opinion, rather awful when one group, in this case the Jews, demand, basically, that the Holocaust, as far as Race is concerned, is their sole domain, especially when it is not.

The Gypsy Peoples of Germany, and later in the occupied areas, were in fact and truth the very first victims of the madness of racial purity that was the Nazi laws.

The first victims of Zyklon B gas were Gypsy children in Bohemia, who were being used as guinea pigs to see if the gas worked and how much was needed to kill a person.

It is high time that those facts became common knowledge but I doubt that those that try to keep the Holocaust a unique event for themselves will ever permit that.

© 2010

Romani People in Italy – Milan in 2010, Warsaw in 1940

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In spite of the recent resolution issued by the European Parliament reasserting the illegality of the camp clearances without alternative lodgings; despite the warning from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that Roma settlements must be protected and the forced evictions stopped, the Milanese local authorities, undaunted, are still persecuting the Roma and Sinti communities present on its territory.

On April 9th, a deployment of 30 local police officers cleared the three settlements in Via Siccoli, Via Guglielmo Pepe and Ponte delle Milizie. More than 100 Roma citizens living in conditions of extreme hardship (among them sick and handicapped people, pregnant women and children) were charged with illegally occupying private land and forced to leave their makeshift shelters despite having nowhere else to go, or being offered any social assistance.

The huts the families were living in were bulldozed, while the areas will soon be “secured” to prevent the Roma or homeless returning to the site. While Riccardo De Corato, the deputy-mayor, gives interviews to newspapers and TV channels boasting about the operation that has led to the umpteenth humanitarian crisis, Milan has also adopted repressive measures against the Roma who live in “authorized camps”.

Before next summer, in fact, twenty surveillance cameras are due be installed over the entrances to the settlements in Via Triboniano, Via Idro, Via Chiesa Rossa and Via Martirano.

Those cameras will be linked up to police and Carabinieri stations to control the families living in the camp around the clock; families who have already suffered the humiliation of having to adhere to “a sociality pact”, which are special laws very similar to the rules in force in the ghettoes during the Nazi period. The project, initiated by the local authorities, has been approved by the City Police Chief, Gian Valerio Lombardi.

The cost of installing these cameras amounts to 479,000 Euros - an astronomical sum, 24,000 Euros per camera ! “With this amount, added to the other 12 million Euros that Milan spends every year on clearing Roma settlements,” say EveryOne Group's co-presidents, Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau, “our organization could have funded thirty factories in the “Romasia Project”, and this would have provided a home and work for all the Roma families present in Milan today. Instead, these policies, which are prompted by racial hatred, have led to a huge waste in public money; offered a terrible image to the world of a city that claims to be a European metropolis - and caused a disastrous situation of hardship and marginalization for more than one thousand human beings”.

Let us not forget that Gypsy children in Italy – those from those special new camps particularly – have to wear badges on their clothing identifying as Gypsies. If that is not a rerun of the Nazi era then I do not know what is.

Britain 2010

In addition to that may I issue a warning to the Romani and Travellers in Britain for many of the local authorities intend to also place CCTV cameras on and near the official Gypsy Caravan Sites that they manage, with the cameras pointing into the sites in order “to monitor for acts of anti-social behavior. This is not part of a Tory manifesto, folks, but one that Labor has on its books.

Recently we were treated here to a publication by the government aimed at local authorities which is a guide on how to tackle anti-social behavior amongst Gypsies and Travellers. Could anyone imagine such a document to read as to tackling anti-social behavior amongst Blacks or Asians or Jews? No, and rightly so. But when it comes to the Gypsy then that all is OK under the British government and in the EU too.

Human rights for all unless they are Gypsy, it would seem to be the case.

© 2010