Poverty and Crime

Conditions Little Better for Roma Immigrants in Germany

By Jörg Diehl in Duisburg, Germany
19/10/2012 - Seeking a better life and a future for their children, tens of thousands of Roma have come to Germany in recent years. They hope to escape the poverty and marginalization they experience in their home countries, but they remain outsiders in their new home too. The resulting problems are keeping police and social workers busy.
The two parents and their four children huddle together on a sofa. The room is bare and damp, with peeling walls and dirty rugs on the floor. This is supposed to be beginning of the better future that Radu and Ilena* were dreaming of when they boarded a bus four weeks ago in Romania. Now they stare apathetically at an animal documentary playing on a German television station. The first thing Radu says is: "No problems, everything is good."

Like many of the people who make the long journey to Germany, the family from Iasi, Romania just wants to keep from standing out or making trouble. In recent years, tens of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians have come to the country's Ruhr region in the populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the numbers are growing. Most of them are Roma fleeing the wretched conditions and bleak prospects of their homeland, paying around €100 per person for a ticket to Germany. But once they arrive, the newcomers quickly realize that the supposed Promised Land isn't as welcoming as they'd hoped.
As European Union citizens, Romanians and Bulgarians may legally reside in Germany -- but working a regular job is not allowed because labor laws stipulate that they can't take work that could instead be performed by a German. What remains is day labor that pays €3 or €4 per hour ($4 to $5), relegating the men to independent construction or roadside work, while many women are forced into prostitution. However, they do get social benefits for their children. Radu and Ilena receive €773 per month, compared to the €110 Radu could earn as a crane operator in Romania in the same time.
*Names changed