An article I recently came across in the International Herald Tribune outlines the current situation regarding Roma in Helsinki, largely recognized as Europe’s richest city.
The article presents the new Finnish policy that allows the government to send mother and child back to their country of origin or take the child into state run foster care if female Roma are seen “begging” on the streets with their children.
Authorities argue that the aim of the policy is to protect children from a “life on the street”. However, Human Rights groups strongly disagree. The measure is widely seen as THE most strict anti-Roma policy in place in Europe.
The Finland government places the number of Roma living within the country at 12,000 of this number, an internal study estimated the number of Roma “Beggars” to be no more than 100.
So the natural question: Why such a strict policy to target such a small number of individuals?
The Answer: Public opinion, or more accurately public discrimination.
One Helsinki resident was quoted as saying: “People say Finland is not open to immigration whenever the talk about the Roma comes up. Should we just let them roam and risk that some of these kids might die?”
Personally- and here I express my own views, not those of the Advocacy Project or Dzeno Association- I am immediately skeptical of laws that are made to protect someone for their own good. It’s as if the underlying assumption is that clearly this minority is unfit to raise children, we must look after them since we [the state] can provide better care than these uneducated beggars. God forbid a government minister ever had to walk a mile in a 35 year old woman’s shoes. They might just realize how complex of an issue integration and access to basic services really is for Romani people.
Posted By Colby Pacheco
Posted Aug 28th, 2008