UK: Romani migrants panic over news reports about child welfare authorities
Romani migrants from the Czech Republic and Slovakia living in Great Britain have been frightened by recent reports broadcast by the Slovak television channel Joj describing British child welfare authorities as taking Romani children away from their parents for no reason. Online and through social networking sites, Romani people are sharing the Slovak reports at lightning speed. Rumors are also spreading about British families paying up to GBP 500 to adopt Romani children, as well as rumors of trafficking in human organs. News server Romea.cz has been informed that the TV Joj reporting has greatly oversimplified the situation.
Czech Radio's online news server reports that some misunderstandings in the Romani community are being caused by the language barrier. For example, one Romani family believed that social services had informed them that their children would be taken away within the next few days, but the letter they received was actually an offer of assistance from the authorities suggesting they get involved in a special program.
Moreover, the practices being reported on are not new developments. Some of the cases of children being removed from their families occurred several years ago and have been litigated through the courts already.
Petr Torák, a Romani man living in Britain who is an activist with INARP (the International Association of Romani Professionals), confirmed to Czech Radio that Romani people believe the TV Joj reports are describing the standard practice of the authorities in Great Britain. "Romani people are very aware that this country does a good job of abiding by human rights principles, but like most people they watch television and believe the media. Their argument, basically, is that if something was on television, it's probably true. The second argument I frequently hear is that similar things were done in 1939 during the Second World War, when people were transported to the concentration camps without even knowing what was going on," Torák said.
Some Romani parents in the UK have decided not to send their children to school because of the reports. However, since their children's absences could be used against them, the situation must calm down as soon as possible. "Parents are concerned their children will not return home from school. It's a groundless fear, but that is their concern," Torák explains.
Torák confirmed that some Romani people have already left Britain out of fear. He said social workers do frequently visit families in immigrant communities and actively address even small problems immediately. "I believe, of course, that this is correct, that's the way it should be," he told Czech Radio's Radiožurnál station.
In Peterborough, where a large Romani community lives, a crisis meeting has already been organized on this hot topic with representatives of the police and social services. Another such meeting is planned for Friday.
News server Romea.cz is currently investigating the reportage broadcast by TV Joj. We will soon be reporting on this story in more detail.
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