The struggle of Romanian immigrants

By group 3: Maria Averina, O-P Asikainen

Romanian beggars have become a familiar sight on the street corners of   Helsinki every spring and summer. As soon the weather gets warm enough to sit   all day outside on the streets, they start to arrive in large numbers.














Due to the Schengen agreement opening up the borders between its   member countries and guaranteeing free movement of people, travelers from the   poorer areas can head unopposed to other countries in search of work or money.   The attitudes of many locals towards these newcomers in their destination   countries are often negative.

What attracts the beggars to Finland?

Despite the often less than keen welcome, even the beggars still see   it worthwhile to venture abroad in search of a better life. An overview of   the European GDP shows that Romania and Bulgaria are the poorest economies in   the whole EU, with little work to be had.

The Roma community in Romania has long has trouble with discrimination   and massive unemployment rate. The community officially numbers nearly   650 000 people in a country of 20 million, but many believe that the   real figure is at least twice that.

In an interview conducted by the Iltalehti, researcher Airi Markkanen   commented: “In Romania, the child allowance, pensions and other benefits only   amount to 20 euros a month. Here they can earn money equal to a month’s child   allowance in a day.”

For the past three years Markkanen has been collecting information on   the living conditions of Roma people and interviewing them. According to her,   4-5 years ago Roma bagger could earn up to 20 euros a day, but now the figure   has nearly halved.

Many politicians feel concerned

Finland’s   Ombudsman for Minorities, Eva Biaudet, expressed her   worry to Helsingin Sanomat last year, that some of the Romanian beggars might   be victims of human trafficking.

Also elsewhere in Europe some politicians have expressed their concern about the free movement of immigrants made possible by the Schengen agreement. Leader of the UK Independence Party and a Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage spoke about the subject in front the EU Parliament 13 March, and warned that opening of the British borders could bring to the country a flood of immigrants along with Romanian and Bulgarian organized crime. A Bulgarian Member of Parliament Ivailo Kalfin strongly disagreed with Farage’s comments.

In 2010 France deported   hundreds of Roma people, in a controversial attempt to stop petty crime.There a 15 000 Roma   already living in France, most of whom are from Romania and Bulgaria. Most of   them live on makeshift camps on the outskirts of towns.As many as 8313 Roma were   expelled from France during 2010.


As we can see, there is a difference between Romanians and Roma. The inhabitants of Romania and Bulgaria are not necessarily gypsies begging on the streets of European cities. Immigrants can also be respectable citizens, who due to unenviable situation in their home countries are seeking a better life in other EU countries and are willing to work and pay taxes to the state. Taking this into account, measures to reduce or get rid of street beggars in Helsinki should consider this difference. Perhaps, Romanians and Bulgarians coming to work should be treated as minority.

So, what measures can be taken in Finland to resolve the problem?

Closure of borders by leaving the Schengen area – is not an option. Also, we cannot close our borders only for one group of people belonging to a particular nationality, leaving them free to residents of other countries.

According to Ben Zyskowicz, National Coalition Party MP, the possible solution could be to prohibit street begging in Finland, but Minority Ombudsman Eva Biaudet has a different opinion, she says that such a decision would only push Roma beggars to prostitution as they would not have another choice.

As already proposed by the Bucharest police after the visit of the Finnish Minister for European Affairs, Alexander Stubb,  Romania is willing help Finland in dealing with the problems related to the Roma. Collaboration between experts from Bucharest the Helsinki police can be a great support in this issue

Other measures?

Might be a decision could be simply to give them a job. They anyway do bottle collection, especially during such big Finnish holidays as Vappu and significant public events as  Ice Hockey World Championship in Helsinki.

The question still remains open and we still  forced to watch the same picture of  poor people sitting right on asphalt and even begging children on the streets of our capital.


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