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Roma Life on the Margins

Photographer: Zsolt Czegledi

 

Baia Mare has a population of about 150,000 people and lies near the Romanian borders with Hungary and Ukraine. According to the census of 2011, the ethnic makeup of the city is around 84 percent Romanian, 12 percent Hungarian and 3 percent Roma. An estimated 10-12 million Roma live throughout Europe, making them one of the EU’s biggest ethnic minorities.

 

Originally around 1,500 Roma people lived in a shantytown called Craica on the outskirts of the city. Selling scrap iron salvaged from abandoned mines in the area is their main source of income. The slum area has no clean water and only a limited electricity supply. Since 2011, local authorities have been demolishing the shanties and rehousing Roma families in various types of accommodation, ranging from disused factories to old government offices. It considers the group as illegal squatters.

 

Another part of the Roma community lives in a slum-like area of rundown apartment blocks on Horea Street. In 2012 the city mayor Catalin Chereches, controversially ordered a wall to be built around this settlement. Whilst the move was popular with many of the city’s non-Roma residents, Roma rights groups criticized it as a modern form of segregation. They also argue that forced evictions violate the rights of the Roma.

 

The local government says that it is trying to lift the Roma out of poverty by giving them better housing and improving their access to education and employment. Plans to build modern social housing for the Roma consisting of 500 homes are in limbo, whilst funding is finalized and the search for a suitable site continues