Roma women imprisoned for not paying begging fines, says report

Stop and search for Roma men by Garda amounts to ‘institutional racism’


Roma women in Ireland are being put in prison for not paying begging fines while half are homeless at some stage because they cannot access housing, a report out today will show.

A “hostile” relationship exists between the Garda and Roma women with more than 90 per cent of the women surveyed saying they had come into contact with the force. For the majority this was for begging, with some reporting that gardaí had told them to stop begging while other beggars nearby were allowed to continue.

Fining women for begging can force them into prostitution and lead to a cycle of begging to pay the fines, warns the report by the Irish Immigrant Support Centre.

Almost 40 per cent of the Roma men involved in the survey said they had been stopped and searched by gardaí. “It clearly points to the existence of racial profiling, harassment and institutional racism,” says the report.

The findings are based on questionnaires done with 20 members of the Roma community in Cork.

Roma experience long delays when accessing social benefits because they are often initially turned down for a payment. There is a “marked reluctance” by Department of Social Protection officers to grant Roma people payments “which they are clearly entitled to”, says the report. It also highlights verbal abuse, discriminatory behaviour and requests for “additional and unnecessary documentation”. In some cases Roma have reported “racist comments” by officers when seeking benefits.

“This is a community that falls through the cracks in every respect,” said Fiona Finn of the support centre.