39% of Maltese say they are uncomfortable with children dating Roma

A Eurobarometer survey has revealed that 39% of Maltese would feel 'uncomfortable' if one of their children was in a romantic relationship with a person of Roma ethnicity

The European Union’s new commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has already announced that one of her first visits will be to a Roma settlement
The European Union’s new commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has already announced that one of her first visits will be to a Roma settlement

The European Union’s new commissioner for equality Helena Dalli has already announced that one of her first visits will be to a Roma settlement, a minority which faced its own ‘Porajmos’, or Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis and which she described as “Europe’s most discriminated”.

But a recently published Eurobarometer survey suggests that she faces an uphill battle to change popular sentiment against this community

And prejudice is rife even in Dalli’s home country, Malta, which does not have a sizeable Roma minority living on the island but tends to be exposed to the Italian media which is rife with anti-Roma prejudice propagated by far-right leader Matteo Salvini.

Indeed, only 10% of Maltese have actually been acquainted with Roma people compared to 20% of EU respondents to a Eurobarometer survey.

The findings reveal that 39% of Maltese would feel “uncomfortable” if one of their children is in a romantic relationship with a person of Roma ethnicity – nine points higher than the percentage of respondents in all 28 EU members states who feel the same. Only 24% of Maltese would be completely comfortable while 10% would be moderately comfortable.

The greatest discomfort on this aspect is expressed by Bulgarians (73%), Greeks (60%), Cyriots (55%) and Italians (51%). On the other hand, only 12% of Swedish respondents would feel uncomfortable with their children dating a Roma person.

Moreover, 21% of Maltese – compared to 27% of all EU respondents – would feel uncomfortable if their children have Roma schoolmates.

Only 31% would feel completely comfortable while 19% would feel moderately comfortable.

While 49% of respondents in all EU member states would feel comfortable with a prime minister of Roma ethnicity, only 32% of Maltese express the same feeling. The least comfortable with the prospect are the Lithuanians, Bulgarians, Estonians and Italians.

A protest in Bucharest, Romania in 2018 by Romani people against antigypsyism in Europe
A protest in Bucharest, Romania in 2018 by Romani people against antigypsyism in Europe

Overall the survey found that 61% of Europeans agree that society would benefit from greater integration of Roma people. The Maltese were the most non-committal with 44% replying ‘doesn’t know’.

Who are the Roma people?

Roma people have a long history of living in Europe with a presence recorded from the 13th Century.

Roma originated in India but left the subcontinent in the 11th century. From there, they crossed into the Byzantine Empire, and then up to southeastern Europe and Spain. Barred from purchasing land or joining guilds, the Roma had no choice but to move about. Wandering became a way of life, and the Roma fit into the European economy by selling merchandise in rural areas distant from shops.

Europe’s Roma and Sinti people were targeted by the Nazis for total destruction. The Porrajmos, or Porajmos, which translates to ‘the Devouring’, is the term used to describe the Nazi genocide of Europe’s Roma and Sinti population. More than 200,000 Roma and Sinti were murdered or died as a result of starvation or disease, around 25% of the pre-war population. Many more were imprisoned, used as forced labour or subject to forced sterilisation and medical experimentation.

They are now widely recognised as one of the EU’s largest minority groups with an estimate of more than 10m Roma living in Europe. The term “Roma”, first chosen at the inaugural World Romani Congress held in London in 1971, is now widely accepted across the European Union (EU) as a generic term to describe a diverse range of communities, tribes and clans. They are now widely recognised as one of the EU’s largest minority groups with an estimate of more than 10 million Roma living in Europe.

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