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  • Author or Editor: Colin Clark x
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This chapter examines a particular example of ‘democratic participation’ within the diverse and heterogeneous Roma communities across Europe — the role of community and cultural mediators. It asks the following key question: what have been the successes and challenges of Romi mediation schemes, to date, and what impact have they had on grassroots Romani activism across Eastern and Central Europe? It argues that although mediation is having a positive impact in some communities, for certain individuals, it is not in and of itself an appropriate or suitable vehicle for wider grassroots campaigning and political activism, especially on issues of structural poverty, disadvantage, and racist discrimination. The chapter first details some thoughts on mediation, specifically commenting on community and peer mediation. It then examines ROMED in its various guises, charting its successes and challenges.

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In the last 12 months there has been close examination of the ‘asylum crisis’ by a range of interested parties, from government and NGOs to the tabloid press and the British public. As well as the ‘numbers issue’ and questions about routes of access into Britain, the very nature and purpose of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act has been called to account, particularly regarding policies on dispersal and vouchers. How are these debates being framed, what is the human cost and the best way forward?

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In late 2013, various central and Eastern European Roma (‘Gypsy’) communities faced an overtly hostile media spotlight. Politicians openly spoke about needing to ‘change’ the ‘behaviour and culture’ of Roma migrants who were allegedly behaving in ‘intimidating’ ways. Although this particular moral panic was fortunately brief, it arose out of a well-established anti-Roma tradition and has left its mark on present and most likely future community relations. This chapter considers these issues and explains how, where and why this moral panic emerged in the way it did. To complement the theory, data from an on-going research project in Glasgow conducted by the author, is incorporated to illustrate the impacts of moral panics for those communities directly affected.

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‘I came here for job. It was not easy. It was hard before because I didn’t speak English … it was difficult to go to job centre and apply for job. Now is easier because I speak English and I have job. Now is all right.’ Marek (M, 28, Slovakia)

‘To give people work. It’s very hard if people do not speak language

… this is very big question.’ Kornelie (F, 47, Romania)

This chapter explores the Beveridge ‘giant’ of ‘idleness’ – and its presumed slayer, a political commitment to achieving full employment – via the lens of ‘first hand’ experiences of Central and Eastern European (CEE) migrant Roma (‘Gypsy’) communities who have moved to the UK in the past decade or so from countries such as Slovakia and Romania. To do this, a few words will first be said about how we both understand and interpret ‘idleness’ and employment in the historical and contemporary age. This section will necessarily investigate the specific Beveridge approach to combatting ‘idleness’ and look at some of the fundamental diversity and equality issues that it raises, including racism, classism, xenophobia and sexism. Likewise, from an international or at least trans-European perspective, the chapter will locate and analyse what might be termed the ‘labour of language’. What is meant by this? In a later section it is argued that for many CEE Roma workers in the UK – such as Marek from Slovakia and Kornelie from Romania, who are quoted above – one of the first issues to be confronted is a ‘working language’ barrier, in addition to many other challenges in seeking even basic service provision in key social policy areas such as housing, social security, health and education.

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What we can see is the moral panic spinning out of control around child abduction in Roma communities … It is demonising not only the Roma in Greece, but will affect the communities here, including Gypsies. It is playing into the view of Gypsies and Roma as child stealers … You can have one suspected case that leads to the headlines that we have seen. People are speculating about massive abduction rings for begging. (Katharine Quarmby interviewed on Channel 4 News, 22 October 2013)

What happens when two different, but related, moral panics collide? When prejudice and hysteria join forces? What impact does racial profiling have on those communities who find themselves in the crosshairs of the state? In late 2013, various central and Eastern European Roma (‘Gypsy’) communities living in Britain faced an unwelcome and overtly hostile media spotlight. Politicians openly spoke about needing to ‘change’ the ‘behaviour and culture’ of Roma migrants who were allegedly behaving in ‘intimidating’ and ‘offensive’ ways. Such views were espoused not by marginalised and disgruntled Tory backbenchers but a former Labour Home Secretary (David Blunkett, MP) and the current (at the time of writing) Deputy Prime Minister (Nick Clegg, MP). This moral panic largely centred around themes of integration, asociality and behaviour but also overlapped and merged with existing media and political attention on allegations of Roma being involved in child abduction – initially the case of ‘Maria’ in Greece and two later cases in Ireland. Roma ‘behaviour and culture’, viewed in highly static, essentialist, almost colonial terms, could only do right in doing wrong and was presented as being in direct contrast to equally static and unproblematically reified ‘British values’.

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Housing has often been regarded as a ‘wobbly pillar’ of the welfare state due to its disjointed position between the public and private realms and the intractability of some problems to policy solutions. Indeed, we can ask whether a ‘housing sector’ exists at all, due to complex systems of governance, financialisation, policy divergence and overall fragmentation of housing-related social policy throughout the UK. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of housing policy, putting ‘the home’ and neighbourhoods into the spotlight. This chapter looks at some of the key emerging and re-emerging issues for housing policy in the UK through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapter firstly outlines why housing was considered the ‘wobbly pillar’ going into 2019, including issues surrounding the financialisation of housing. Key COVID-19 housing-related policy responses are then examined in the context of emerging evidence that the pandemic is reinforcing inequalities in housing. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated underlying housing issues faced by more vulnerable groups, yet it has also created an opportunity to showcase radical policy options and highlight the importance of future-proofing housing to be more flexible, dynamic and better quality.

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