Proliferation of Gypsy immigrants

Gipsy immigration overload
Romany immigrants
The migration wave, when several hundreds of Czech Gypsies have left for Canada in 1997, became known as the Roma Exodus. When a Czech private TV Nova aired a documentary on August 6th, 1997, depicting Canada as a land where Roma can leave poverty and discrimination behind, many started selling their belongings and bought plane tickets. Czech citizens needed no visa for Canada, so Roma simply applied for residence or refugee status once they reached the country. Canadian embassy switchboards were jammed with calls, and plane tickets booked through October. The Czech Roma Exodus was stopped on October 8th, 1997, only by re-introduction of visas for all Czech citizens travelling to Canada. After a similar stream of Czech Gypsies towards British shores in the same year, a number of silent discriminatory measures were taken in order to prevent Roma from entering the country and applying for an asylum.

In 1995, hundreds of Gypsies from the Slovak Republic applied for asylum in United Kingdom. The Gypsies reasoned their applications mainly by skinhead physical attacks in their country. In the next year, 1256 Slovaks of the Gypsy ethnic group applied for asylum in the UK. Out of these, 472 were the initial applicants, the rest were their relatives. Roma applying for asylum in UK became the focus of alarmist and often racist articles in the British media, including organs noted for their seriousness. Such inflammatory statements sensationalised the issue of the flight of Roma from Eastern Europe, especially the Czech Republic and Slovakia, to Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent played with racist stereotypes by publishing headlines such as, "Gypsies Invade Dover, Hoping for a Handout", "They Speak little English, But Know Exactly How to Play the System" and "The Travellers Have Developed New Tactics". In October 1998, nine years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, United Kingdom re-instituted visas for Slovak citizens travelling to the country. Ireland joined automatically.

Around 3,000 Slovak Gypsies applied for asylum in Belgium, arriving at a rate of 200 every month in 1999. The government reportedly considered introduction of visas for Slovak citizens, but situation was stabilised by a change of the immigration laws. Since the applications of the Gypsies were judged to have an economical background, the asylum procedure was shortened in such a way that it was no more interesting for the Roma to try it there. Only three Gypsies were successful, the others had to leave or were bound for home. According to Belgian authorities, the Slovak Gypsy immigration would not be treated as a problem as long as there were less than fifty applications per month.

In July 1999, Finland suspended visa-free entry for Slovak citizens to stem the accelerating inflow of Gypsies who were fleeing Slovakia in search of a better life in the rich Nordic country. In the last couple of feverish days preceding the decision, nearly 400 Slovak Gypsies arrived in Finland on regular flights from Budapest and Prague. Around 1,150 of them came to Finland since the start of the year. The Gypsy families claimed they were fleeing persecution at home, but the Finnish government shared the view of Slovak officials that the motive for the Gypsy migration was economic and that Finland's generous welfare system was a lure. Vast majority or all of the Gypsy asylum-seekers faced the prospect of deportation. In the same month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Norwegian Kingdom, following the example of Finland, announced that all Slovak citizens travelling to this country would be required visas from that day on. This regulation was substantiated by fear of high number of Slovak Gypsy economic refugees. Fifty-seven of them demanded asylum in Norway by then. Increase of the number of Gypsy asylum-seekers was reported also from Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Switzerland. There were justified fears that all of the [Shengen Treaty] countries as a group would proceed to imposition of visa obligations for Slovak citizens.

Gypsies represent large minorities in many Eastern European countries (e.g. as much as 10% in Slovakia). Living situation of these ethnic groups, deprived of chances to develop its own way, has never been glorious. It is only natural that many of them try to break their way through the vicious circle and go to live elsewhere.
(J) Problems under consideration