A charity supporting Roma people in Glasgow has denied reports that Roma families in the city are routinely sexually exploiting their children.
The Times newspaper claimed last week that Roma families are selling their children for sex on the streets of Govanhill. The claims led to a spate of other media reports focusing on alleged abuse by Roma people.
Yet even the Times quoted a community worker who, said, “The majority of the Roma people I work with work for a living, look after their children, send them to school and college and want the best for them.
“You don’t hear about them because they live quietly and don’t cause any trouble.”
The Friends of Romano Lav charity called the allegations in the Times “spurious and unevidenced”. It said, “Issues of child protection should not be racialised. Such reporting is harmful to ongoing community development work.”
The charity added that it had seen no “instances of the child protection issues that The Times described”. It said that anyone with evidence of abuse should report it to the police.
Local council minutes from September 2015 refer to “child prostitution within Govanhill” and say that children had been seen “wandering the streets at night”. The minutes don’t seem to mention whether this is a problem within any particular ethnic group.
Police Scotland said it would investigate the claims, but that there is “no information or intelligence to substantiate” them currently.
The Times claimed the abuse has taken place “for more than a decade” but that the authorities failed to act for “fear of being called racist”.
This reporting follows a tradition of treating certain ethnic groups as a particular problem.
In Rotherham, the Times claimed that cops failed to tackle abusers because they were Asian.
Last week it made much of the “disturbing parallels” between Govanhill and Rotherham.
The racist implication of this reporting is that ethnic minorities are less likely to be charged with crimes. The opposite is true.
Any allegations of abuse should be taken seriously. But there is a problem with mainstream newspapers using allegations and cases to encourage racism.
Victims of child sexual exploitation—and abusers—come from all backgrounds.
Pushing the idea that Roma or Asian people are more likely to abuse children increases racism and takes attention away from abusers who don’t fit that profile.
Tellingly The Times added, “At a time when sexual exploitation is being investigated at the highest layers of our society, there needs to be just as much attention given to what is happening in areas of deprivation.”
It may be that Tory-supporting papers prefer to put the spotlight on ordinary people instead of those at the top of society.