More than 100 Serbian Gypsies cross illegally into Romania, claim police abuse at home
More than 100 Serbian Gypsies have crossed the border illegally into neighboring Romania in recent days and filed applications for asylum claiming they were being subjected to abuse and attacks at home, police said Wednesday.
"This is a new phenomenon, to have immigrants from Serbia asking for asylum," Timisoara border police spokesman Viorel Alexe said.
The Gypsies, also known as Roma, began crossing over the weekend in groups of 20-30 people, some barefoot, in a border region that is not closely monitored routinely because it is not considered high risk for immigration. They crossed the border through fields near the Romanian village of Otelec.
Some said they had been beaten by police or Serbs.
"They threw fire bottles (Molotov cocktails) into my yard and burned down one of the sheds next to the house," said Sasa Bot, 28, from the village of Craisnic, speaking in broken Romanian.
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Steve Lakatus, 17, who crossed the border barefoot early Wednesday, said he ran from the police in his village of Itebei. Wearing jeans and a T-shirt, he was shivering in the chilly morning, and one of the border guards who arrested him lent him his coat.
Serb police did not immediately comment on the claims.
Asylum seekers are not prosecuted for crossing illegally into Romania. The Gypsies were placed in refugee centers around the country, Alexe said. Border police beefed up patrols in the area.
The situation is unusual for Romania, whose own Roma live in poverty and face discrimination.
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