Background on the Roma
are between 7 million and 9 million people of Romani descent
living in Europe today. The exact origins of the Roma,
labeled by outsiders as Gypsies, have long been a subject
of mystery and controversy. Most Roma agree they are descended
from migrants who left Northern India more than seven
centuries ago, but the exact paths of the diaspora are
Historically, the Roma have been a nomadic people, whether
by choice or by force of circumstances. Today, deteriorating
conditions in Eastern Europe have prompted many Roma,
especially those from Romania, Bulgaria and the former
Yugoslavia, to settle in Western Europe.
Web Journal: Roma Culture and History
This comprehensive site chronicles the origins of the
Roma people, their migration through history and their
According to the World Bank, poverty among the Roma is
one of the most challenging development issues facing
Central and Eastern Europe. This site has in-depth reports
on conditions for Roma people in different countries and
briefings about World Bank projects involving Roma issues.
The Forced Migration Project of the Soros Foundation has
compiled this scholarly annotated bibliography on books
and journals examining the Roma and their migrations.
This online photo exhibit from the Open Society Institute
beautifully depicts Roma people living in Central and
Eastern Europe, featuring a photo essay of a Roma settlement
in the polluted "black city" of Copsa Mica, Transylvania,
Roma in Romania
1991 Romanian census counted more than 400,000 Roma living
in Romania, but Romani groups and other sources estimate
the actual number to be between 1.4 million and 2.5 million
-- making the Roma one of the largest minority groups
in Romania and one of the largest Roma populations in
The European Roma Rights Center prepared this report on
employment and housing conditions for the Roma in Romania,
with information on incidents of violence and police brutality
against the Roma.
Center for Roma Communities
The center, part of the Soros Open Network, supports efforts
to improve the living conditions of Roma communities in
Romania, enhance communication between Roma and non-Roma
people, and encourage Roma cultural identity. The center
supports the development of a network of nongovernmental
Roma groups capable of developing concrete solutions to
civil, economic and social problems facing their communities.
National Office for Roma
In 2001, the Romanian government, with financial backing
from the European Commission, set up an office to respond
to the needs of the Roma community. This is the official
government site, with links to reports on the situation
of the Roma in Romania.
Rights and the Roma
For centuries, the Roma were scorned and persecuted across
Europe. In 1504, Louis XII kept the Roma from entering
France; in 1496, the German parliament labeled the Roma
as traitors to Christianity; and from the 15th century
until as late as the mid-19th century, the Roma in Romania
lived as slaves. Throughout the 17th century, common sanctions
against the Roma included restrictions upon trade and
shelter, prohibition from wearing traditional dress and
speaking the Romani language, and restrictions on the
size of Roma gatherings. Penalties were often severe,
including death or corporal punishment.
It's estimated that during the Holocaust of World War
II up to a half-million people of Romani descent were
murdered alongside Jews in the Porrajmos, a Romani
word that means "the devouring." In more recent conflicts
in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia, several hundred thousand
Roma have been displaced to live in refugee camps in utter
The fall of communism and the political changes in Eastern
Europe in 1989 brought new optimism and opportunities
to the Romani community, in what one scholar describes
as a "new Roma awakening." But today the Roma continue
to be deprived of their fundamental rights. A new wave
of anti-Roma sentiment and hate violence has surged in
recent years, and discrimination in education, employment,
housing and health care is pervasive in many societies.
Roma children are often segregated into special schools
for the learning disabled and fall into a vicious cycle
of poverty, teenage pregnancy, petty crime and substance
European Roma Rights Center
The European Roma Rights Center is an international public
interest law organization that monitors human rights abuses
of the Roma and provides legal defense. The Web site includes
status reports on the situation of Roma in different countries,
and a list of Roma cases heard by the European Court of
Human Rights dealing with police abuse, expulsion and
asylum, discrimination in housing, and defamation issues.
on Ethnic Relations -- Roma
Founded in 1991, the Project on Ethnic Relations conducts
programs dedicated to reducing interethnic conflict in
Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
This site presents issue papers on anti-Roma violence,
electoral disenfranchisement and the media's role in perpetuating
History of Intolerance
This historical timeline shows the persecution of the
Roma in Europe, dating back to witch hunts during the
late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
This Web site describes Marzahn, the first internment
camp for people of Roma descent, and the forced labor,
massacre and deportation of hundreds of thousands of Roma
during the Third Reich. The material includes archival
photographs, historical film footage and personal stories.
The European Union Accession Monitoring Program provides
documents, news and original articles about minority rights
in the states of Central and Eastern Europe.
(Note: Click on the Great Britain flag on the left-hand
side to access the English-language version of Web site.)
The main body representing the Roma people in Europe was
founded in London in 1971 and has had United Nations advisory
status since 1993. The IRU held its fifth World Congress
in 2000 and called for nonterritorial nation status for
the Roma people. The IRU's agenda in recent years has
focused on the migration of Roma to the West, the plight
of Roma in Kosovo and the rise in hate violence against
This online newspaper on Romani issues is published by
the European Committee on Romani Emancipation.
This Roma information service features chat boards for
The quarterly newsletter of the European Roma Rights Center
has news roundups from across Europe, including field
reports, editorials and testimonies on issues related
to the civil and human rights of the Roma.