Gypsy tensions magnify culture clash

By Isabelle

The spike in the number of Roma gypsies crossing Switzerland and the lack of camping spots have led to tensions with locals. Villages feel they have to fend for themselves, while travellers say they are all being tarred with the same brush.

19/09/2012 - Switzerland has had a very heated summer when it comes to the traveller community. There have been large scale camps, illegal camps, property damage, criminal complaints. Shots have even been fired. French-speaking Switzerland has been particularly affected as it is a popular destination with French Roma because of the common language.
The situation has become even more delicately balanced with an influx of Bulgarian and Romanian Roma, who benefit from European free movement rules allowing them to come and beg in richer countries. Switzerland has also seen a steady flow of Roma asylum seekers from Serbia.
Objectors have used the ill feeling generated by these developments to propose tough measures, such as the confiscation of caravans if a crime is committed, or the creation of an international "gypsy alert" system.
“It wouldn’t be a problem if there were enough camping grounds for everyone in this country. But there aren't even enough for us,” says Daniel Huber, head of an organisation for the nomadic Jenish people in German-speaking Switzerland.
“We already have the feeling that we don't have the same rights as people who live in one place, although we have the same obligations. And these problems are all the worse for us Jenish, because people assume we are the same as the Roma people.”