Roma integration in Glasgow – reality or a fake?
In response to recent Evening Times article (21.1.2016) on Glasgow being the positive case study in Roma integration, we spoke to MSc Eva Kourova who studied a post-graduate programme of Citizenship and Human Rights at Glasgow Caledonian University. Who has over 10 years experience working with the Roma community in Glasgow;We asked her:
Eva pictured at International Roma day, Govanhill Park.
Why is it that we speak about Roma integration in Glasgow as being a positive case study?
I have always been a great supporter of community development and I know that Roma people are as capable as any other migrant group to settle and integrate in the new society and live a prosperous life. But what really bugs me is the fact that we hold transnational conferences and meetings regarding Roma integration, we spent time on creating strategies to Roma integration and we peer educate each other but in the same time we totally exclude the Roma people from this exercise. The parameters that determined Glasgow as a successful case study to me are therefore fake because with true integration comes power and with power come resources. To me if Glasgow was to be a lead expert on Roma integration, it would have to be prepared to give the power back to the Roma people themselves and have a strategy in place on how to support the Roma people to be able to use the power and resources in theirs and in others benefit. Just now Roma people don’t have access to resources and have no powers over their general wellbeing which makes them more and more vulnerable and powerless. I don’t think that Glasgow really needs specially designed projects targeting Roma people if the outcome of those will be ultimately Roma disadvantage on one side and power and resources on the other – even if the power and resources would be aimed at Roma communities. This I consider to be the biggest gap that needs to be addressed in order for Glasgow to be truly able to call itself a lead expert on Roma integration.
The people that use media as a tool to spread a message of Glasgow being successful in Roma integration couldn’t therefore be further from the truth. Glasgow focuses majority of its effort and resources on providing an integrated service to Roma families in Govanhill, a 16,000 resident area about a mile south of the city centre. Police, social work, health, education, employment service providers – they all work together to provide an integrated service to the supposedly 3,000 Roma residents living in the area. It is this number that brings additional resources to the area. Other localities are not as lucky as they never got this official number stamp which truly determines where effort and energy will be spent. The Polish Roma community in Clydebank is a victim of this and they already start to feel the burden of Govanhill on their shoulders. Both the communities have been present in Scotland for over 10 years now, yet one is under constant surveillance of service providers, whilst the other is completely abandoned by the same people that claim to represent a city that is exceptional in Roma integration. If Glasgow was to be what it claims, then the Govanhill obsession would have to be addressed and all Roma communities supported. The current Glasgow Roma integration strategy therefore creates fraction amongst the Roma people and reinforces conflict and jealousy within the Roma groups that are faced with a prospect of fighting for resources and power. This gap will have to be addressed by Glasgow,in order to become a true lead expert on Roma integration.
Coming from a not-for-profit organization background, I would also like point to another significant gap that the current strategy is marginally overseeing, but acknowledging nevertheless. The power struggle is not just amongst Roma groups or between Roma and practitioners. The disintegration also exists between non-Governmental (NGO) organizations and the city for the NGO’s is widely referred to as a front line development rather than delivery service that works directly with Roma people and is largely concerned with the Roma leadership and active citizenship. Those topics are interesting for the city and the city recognises that the role of those organizations is crucial as it is understood that integrated service delivery will not resolve the real issue that Roma people in Glasgow have – lack of leadership figures. The current Roma integration strategy is by majority represented by service delivery oriented individuals and the lack of Roma leadership won’t be resolved by the current strategy unless lead NGO’s are integrated into the movement. This disintegration makes the current strategy extremely vulnerable and threatens the whole image to collapse and this antagonises the two groups to work together as a team which doesn’t look good on an international level. Those are the sore spots – the disintegration of the current integration strategy of Glasgow that in my opinion will have to be addressed sooner rather than later. An image without a core is ultimately prone to be discovered as a fake and ridiculed for being shallow.
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