Roma families removed from M50 roundabout


Nearly 60 people living on the M50 roundabout in Ballymun in Dublin have been escorted from the site by gardaí to await deportation to Romania.

Gardaí had met representatives of the Roma families at Ballymun Garda station last night and outlined their plans to remove them from the site today.

Members of the Garda's National Immigration Bureau, accompanied by gardaí from the Dublin Metropolitan North Division, arrived at the encampment at around 5.00am.

Gardaí were still at the site before lunchtime today.

Gardaí said some 57 people voluntarily left the roundabout this morning and were taken away by bus to accommodation to await deportation. They took the option of voluntary repatriation and were brought to Balseskin reception centre near Finglas. They are expected to be returned to Romania tomorrow, the Traveller support group Pavee Point said.

About 35 people refused to leave and opted to stay on site to fight their deportation orders.

They have 15 days to initiate a challenge from the day the orders were issued and have indicated that they intend to do this.

[Roma] are a huge social problem in Romania
Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan

Removal orders were served on 86 people living on the roundabout and in a derelict house on the Old Swords Road on Saturday. Those wishing to fight the orders have 15 days to do make submissions as to why they should be allowed stay.

Ronnie Fay of Pavee Point, who is representing the families, said today many of those who opted to leave voluntarily had only arrived last week. Most of those who are trying to stay have been staying in the camp since May.

Ms Fay, who remained on the site until shortly before lunchtime, said the Garda operation this morning was "very professional" and there was no attempt to remove anyone by force. She said, however, the Roma people voiced concerns about interpreters who dealt with them last night stating "they felt they were given no choice but to be re-patriated".

"Once again we call on the government to make provision for the Roma families who continue to stay on the roundabout in inhumane conditions," she said in a statement.

"We also encourage them to take up the issue of the treatment of Roma in Romania with the government there. Equally there needs to be a European solution to what is a European problem. It is also important that the treatment of the Roma repatriated is monitored as they expressed fears about possible victimisation when they return to Romania."

"We feel that clearly the Government has facilities for these people, and although we don't expect the government to have uncontrolled migration, we do expect people to be treated like human beings when they arrive here," she told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

Last night, Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan said the Roma families would be deported from Ireland unless they can provide a valid reason why they should stay. He said he had been advised by members of the Romanian community in Ireland that if the families were allowed stay, thousands more would follow in their wake.

"They are a huge social problem in Romania," he told RTÉ's Questions and Answers. "That's Romania's problem, not Ireland's problem. There is a front door into this country. There isn't a back door."

While Romanian citizens are free to travel here without a visa since the country joined the EU in January, their rights are limited under legislation introduced by the Government.

Romanian - and Bulgarian - citizens are entitled to stay for longer than three months only if they are employed or self-employed or students, or have sufficient resources to support themselves and have health insurance cover.

The Roma group has no visible means of support and are not entitled to social assistance due to welfare restrictions on non-residents. Its members are also restricted from working unless they hold a visa or are self-employed.

Romania's ambassador to Ireland, Silvia Stancu Davidoiu, yesterday accused some of those camped at the roundabout of trying to mislead the public into believing they live in desperate conditions at home.

She said an investigation by the government in Romania had found that many of those in the camp had been in receipt of social assistance at home or had permanent addresses in blocks of the flats.

Wide-spread discrimination and physical segregation keep Roma on the margins of society and help perpetuate the cycle of poverty and exclusion from one generation to the next
Children's Rights Alliance

More than 20 groups - including the Irish Roma Support Group, Pavee Point, and Crosscare - have been supporting the settlers since they arrived and giving them food.

The Children's Rights Alliance urged that any measures taken in relation to the Roma families are sensitive to the needs and rights of the Roma children and minimise the distress caused by their current situation".

The body noted a 2007 report by Unicef which found that Roma children suffer from poverty, discrimination and a lack of prospects for their future in eight states of south-east Europe - Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.

It said children in these countries are "among the poorest and most excluded members of society".

"They lack access to adequate housing, health care, education and social services. A significant number are not registered at birth. Wide-spread discrimination and physical segregation keep Roma on the margins of society and help perpetuate the cycle of poverty and exclusion from one generation to the next."

The Unicef report found that two-thirds of the Roma households did not have enough to eat, the Children's Rights Alliance said.