- Title: Slovak Roma fear Brexit will bring poverty for their thriving town
- Date: 6th December 2016
- Summary: BYSTRANY, SLOVAKIA (NOVEMBER 28, 2016) (REUTERS) BYSTRANY WITH VILLAGE SIGN HOUSES UNDER RECONSTRUCTION NEW ROOFS ON HOUSES MAIN STREET IN BYSTRANY ROMA QUARTER VARIOUS OF ROMA CHILDREN IN STREET SQUARE CALLED BY RESIDENTS "SHEFFIELD SQUARE" ROMA SIGN ON WALL IN SO CALLED "SHEFFIELD SQUARE" CAR PASSING VARIOUS OF ROMA BOYS PLAYING WITH BALL CAR WITH BRITISH LICENSE PLATE PASSING ROMA MAN TALKING AROUND THE CAR (SOUNDBITE) (Slovak) BYSTRANY RESIDENT WORKING IN SHEFFIELD, JAN SANDOR, SAYING: "We wanted to go to Britain because we saw a future there. We wanted to live a better life, have a job, support our families properly. Because the Slovak state is giving us absolutely nothing. Today we have everything, we are not depending on the Slovak state or anyone else. We are working on our own." BYSTRANY STREET GIRLS CARRYING WATER REFURBISHED HOUSES CARS WITH ENGLISH LICENSE PLATE PARKING IN THE FRONT OF THE HOUSE (SOUNDBITE) (Slovak) JAN SANDOR, FATHER OF JAN SANDOR, SAYING: "My sons have renovated their houses in Slovakia, furnished them with luxury; they don't drink, they have jobs and invest everything in housing." ROMA IN THE STREET VARIOUS OF RENOVATED HOUSES (SOUNDBITE) (Slovak) JAN SANDOR, FATHER OF JAN SANDOR, SAYING: "It would be a disaster if they had to return for good. There's no work, nobody wants to employ the Roma but they keep saying it's us who don't want to work. When people travel thousands of miles for work, they are hardly lazy." BYSTRANY TOWN HALL SLOVAK, EU AND BYSTRANY VILLAGE FLAGS WAVING IN THE WIND (SOUNDBITE) (Slovak) BYSTRANY MAYOR FRANTISEK ZIGA SAYING: "The town has changed a lot. Not only have the Roma refurbished their homes in the former shantytown. You have seen it - it is a big change when people have jobs." VARIOUS OF HOUSES UNDER RECONSTRUCTION (SOUNDBITE) (Slovak) BYSTRANY MAYOR, FRANTISEK ZIGA, SAYING: "Even if they had to leave Britain, they would likely seek work in other EU countries. They speak English, Polish or Russian." RESIDENTS GATHERED AROUND CAR (SOUNDBITE) (Slovak) BYSTRANY RESIDENT WORKING IN SHEFFIELD, JAN SANDOR, SAYING: "We don't fear Brexit. Because people who have been living there (in Britain) for more than 12 years have a temporary permit status there. We were offered a full residency permit after Britain leaves the EU, because we are tax payers in Britain." CAR WITH BRITISH LICENSE PLATES IN FRONT OF NEWLY RENOVATED HOUSE VARIOUS OF VILLAGE
- Embargoed: 21st December 2016 10:03
- Keywords: Brexit Slovakia Roma poverty UK
- Location: BYSTRANY, SLOVAKIA
- City: BYSTRANY, SLOVAKIA
- Country: Slovakia
- Reuters ID: LVA0015BQX7WN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS STORY RAN ON OUR CEEF FEED ON FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2
Bystrany, a town in eastern Slovakia with a majority Roma population, has thrived in the past decade thanks to remittances from locals who grabbed the benefits of European Union membership and sought work in Britain.
Colourful brick houses with satellite dishes, new cars parked outside, have filled once-rundown neighbourhoods that had lacked running water, supported by the more than 1,000 people - almost one in three residents - who have moved to work in England.
Locals have even named a small open-air amphitheatre "Sheffield Square" in reference to their preferred English destination.
But after Britain's vote to leave the EU, Bystrany Roma are worried they might have to return home to what they call the harsh reality of unemployment and discrimination.
"My sons have renovated their houses in Slovakia, furnished them with luxury; they don't drink, they have jobs and invest everything in housing," said Jan Sandor, whose three sons, a nephew and their families have moved to Britain.
"It would be a disaster if they had to return for good. There's no work, nobody wants to employ the Roma but they keep saying it's us who don't want to work."
There are around 400,000 Roma in Slovakia, the second largest minority in the country of 5.4 million. Large numbers are cut off from society, some living on the outskirts of towns without electricity or sewerage.
Roma are also more likely to be unemployed. In the region where Bystrany is located, unemployment is 13 percent, above the national rate of 9 percent. Bystrany residents say almost all Roma who remained are out of jobs.
In the region, Roma also face being labelled as lazy. But for Sandor, his family's case disproves that.
"When people travel thousands of miles for work, they are hardly lazy," he said.
Experts say one of the main reasons is discrimination and lack of education. In Britain, they encounter fewer obstacles.
Up to 10,000 Slovak Roma live or work in Britain, said Peter Pollak, the first Roma lawmaker in Slovakia's parliament.
With Britain wanting control over immigration, the free movement of people will be a major sticking point in talks over future British-EU relations.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has said free movement must remain to keep an estimated 80,000 Slovaks working in Britain from becoming "second-class citizens".
Frantisek Ziga, Bystrany's mayor for 16 years, said Roma started leaving immediately after Slovakia and nine other mostly central and eastern European countries joined the European Union in 2004.
"The town has changed a lot. Not only have the Roma refurbished their homes in the former shanty town," he said. "You have seen it - it is a big change when people have jobs."
Roma face integration challenges across eastern Europe. The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner, Nils Muiznieks, said last year Roma children were subject to chronic and pervasive segregation in Slovak schools.
Other options also exist for work migration in the EU and Sandor's son, whose name is also Jan, remains an optimist.
"We don't fear Brexit. Because people who have been living there (in Britain) for more than 12 years have a temporary permit status there. We were offered a full residency permit after Britain leaves the EU, because we are tax payers in Britain," he said, surrounded by villagers in his car with British license plates, not far from "Sheffield Square".
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