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Roma children malnourished due to ‘extreme’ poverty, report says

  • 18 Jan 2018

Some Roma children kept out of school over ‘constant fear’ they will be taken into care

Kitty Holland, The Irish Times

18th January 2018

More than half the Roma people in Ireland are living in consistent poverty, a study has found.

Many Roma households have no income other than through begging, with some experiencing such deep poverty they do not send their children to school for fear of them being taken into care.

The report, Roma In Ireland: A National Needs Assessment, was commissioned by the Department of Justice and conducted by Roma peer-researchers trained and supervised by the Traveller and Roma support organisation, Pavee Point.

It found almost half of Roma households (45 per cent) lived in severely overcrowded housing, often without gas, electricity, running water or sufficient food. Some 12 per cent did not have a kitchen, 10 per cent did not have anywhere to cook and 13.5 per cent had no fridge.

Researchers noted “malnutrition among Roma children” and “over half of respondents (52 per cent) reported someone in the household has gone to bed hungry”.

“Service providers identified newborn babies living in houses with no heat, food or basic supplies; 37 per cent of respondents reported they did not have adequate supplies for the baby after birth.

“These findings reveal a depth of poverty that means Roma families affected are focused on surviving from day-to-day . . . [the poverty] can only be described as extreme and it is placing children’s welfare at risk,” the report says.

Investigation

The needs assessment involved interviews with 108 households and information gathering on 491 households, and focus groups across the State.

It was recommended in 2014 by the then ombudsman for children Emily Logan after her investigation into the removal by gardaí of two blond children from their Roma families in 2013.

An estimated 5,000 Roma live in Ireland with the largest communities located in Leinster and Munster.

Despite many living here for several years, 49 per cent of households with children were unable to satisfy the habitual residency condition, whereby they must prove a long-term link to Ireland, to get social welfare payments. Many, even those with children in school, were not entitled to receive child benefit or other welfare payments.

Authorities

Among those living in “constant fear” their children will be taken into care is Stoica Rostas (27).

Two of his children do not attend school.

He and his wife fear the children will be removed if the authorities become aware of their living conditions.

The family shares a room in Dublin’s north inner city with Mr Rostas’s parents and brothers. Eight people share two beds and the heating does not work.

He gets some work cleaning but mainly begs and sells the Big Issue magazine. His wife begs. They have an income, he says, of about €150 a week. They get food parcels from the Capuchin Day Centre. Having very little English he speaks to The Irish Times through interpreter Gabi Muntean.

“I am feeling hopeless and helpless that I cannot provide for my family. I wish things can be better for my children,” he said. Despite the profound poverty his family lives in, he says life is better here for Roma people than in Romania.

The 140-page report examines the Roma experience in Ireland in terms of accommodation, employment, health, education, language and discrimination.

It makes a series of recommendations including that issues affecting Roma people’s ability to satisfy the habitual residency condition be addressed.