Roma in the UK

Origins

The Romani people are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Europe with

an estimated 10 - 12 million people.  Since their arrival in Europe from

India some 700 years ago, they have been politically, socially, culturally

and economically marginalised by the dominant population, who have

consistently shown negative social attitudes towards them.  Yet they have

maintained their distinct identity through culture, traditions and language,

and have resisted assimilation into the dominant group.


Movement to the UK

British Gypsies of the Romanichal and Kale Romani groups have lived in

the UK since the 15th century.  The first Roma from the new EU countries,

particularly from the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Slovakia,

came to the UK in the 1990s seeking asylum to escape persecution.

Since the enlargement of the EU in 2004 and 2007, many more have moved legally to the UK to find work, equal opportunities and a good education for their children (economic and social rights largely denied them in their countries of origin), and to escape racism and discrimination.  They have established significant communities in the north of England, East Midlands, Kent and north and east London.  It is not known how many Roma live in the UK.  The best estimate is around 300,000.  Many Roma avoid declaring their ethnicity and instead use their nationality. 


Situation in the UK

Many Roma in the UK work for low wages on temporary contracts organised by gangmasters and recruitment agencies.  Their vulnerable position is often exploited.  Many live in sub-standard accommodation, shared with other families.  This often leads to poor health, and low school attendance and attainment by children.  There are Roma who want to help their communities overcome these problems.  However they have been frustrated by few opportunities, with very little funding available and limited capacity to implement community-based projects.  Many local authorities and organisations that provide services are unaware of the numbers, locations or needs of the Roma residing in their areas.  This lack of knowledge constrains these authorities from providing suitable services for Roma communities.  Barriers and restrictions on employment, particularly on people from Romania and Bulgaria, adds further disadvantage.


Equality assists Roma communities to work in partnership with local authorities and service providers to resolve social and economic issues by empowering and promoting social inclusion and equality.


Article published in Runnymede Trust's bulletin on the situation of Roma in the UK 'Discrimination as standard'

Map of Roma communities in UK showing countries of origin


 

Roma in UK

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Photo: Ciara Leeming