Politicians and pundits are whipping up racism towards a group of Roma living in Sheffield.
Former Labour home secretary and Sheffield MP David Blunkett claimed the “behaviour” and “culture” of Roma living in the Page Hall area would spark riots.
This “behaviour” is apparently daring to be out on the street and dropping litter. Police in Sheffield have confirmed that there has been no significant rise in crime in Page Hall since more Roma moved there.
Blunkett dredged up disgusting racist stereotypes about Roma during his tirade. He blamed the fact that many Roma are forced to live in poverty on the Roma themselves.
“We’ve got to be tough and robust in saying to people you are not in a downtrodden village or woodland, because many of them don’t even live in areas where there are toilets or refuse collection facilities,” he said.
“You are not there any more, you are here—and you’ve got to adhere to our standards, and to our way of behaving.”
Far right Ukip leader Nigel Farage said Blunkett “should be admired” for his comments.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, whose constituency is also in Sheffield, weighed in too. “They behave in a way that people find sometimes intimidating, sometimes offensive,” he claimed.
Marek Polak is a Roma care worker living in Margate. He told Socialist Worker, “I was quite shocked when I heard the media talking about Roma trying to sell a baby with no evidence.
“They call Roma filthy. They say we urinate in the streets and dump rubbish. But even if a few people dump rubbish, why is it such a big issue? Why should the media be involved?
“These things are generalisations and they will lead to more prejudice. People are scared there will be riots.”
The liberal Channel 4 news kicked off the latest scare campaign against Roma a few weeks ago. It blamed “huge numbers” of Roma arriving in Sheffield for creating tensions in the area.
In fact there are no official figures for how many Roma have recently arrived in Page Hall. And estimates of how many Roma live in the city as a whole vary from 2,000 to 4,000—out of a population of nearly 552,000.
But that didn’t stop the rest of the mainstream media from jumping on the bandwagon.
Marek said, “They say we don’t want to integrate. But it’s misinformation. I came here from the Czech Republic two years ago and I’ve worked all the time. We are integrated.”
Grattan Puxon is a longstanding campaigner for Roma rights. He told Socialist Worker, “Many Roma live in cramped conditions and overcrowded houses, so they spend more time on the streets. It seems some people have taken offence at that.
“But then you have these terrible statements made by ministers and ex-ministers that are stirring up anti-Roma feeling. They are making things worse.”