Romanian Roma Camping on an Irish Motorway Deported After Several Months' Standoff

20 November 2007

On 26 July 2007, the British newspaper The Independent reported that nearly one hundred Roma had been deported from Ireland to Bucharest, Romania, the previous night. The Roma, all members of a single extended family, had been living on a motorway roundabout in conditions described in the article as resembling that of "Delhi slums".

The group who had left their homes on a rubbish tip in Romania had been camped on the M50 motorway near the Dublin airport without sanitation in tents and huts, some of which were made from plastic bags.

The group faced a hostile reaction from the public and in July the Irish government served them with deportation papers, calling for their transport back to Romania within 15 days. However, the family expressed a desire to stay, citing poor conditions and lack of opportunity in Romania, and a hope of finding steady work in agriculture, now that Romania is a member of the European Union. However, special legislation states that Romanians are not allowed to work in Ireland without a work visa, and can only stay for three months at a time before having to prove employment. Additionally, another law in Ireland prevents anyone from claiming welfare until they have lived legally in the country for two years.

Local NGOs, including Pavee Point Travellers Centre and the Irish Association of Social Workers, called on the Irish government to provide aid to the Roma concerned, saying that expelling them from the country would only sidestep the issue. However such appeals were met with sharp criticism from Irish officials. Justice Minister Brian Lenihan called for an urgent inquiry into the role Pavee Point had played in the situation, expressing concern that an organisation would encourage emigrants to act contrary to the law.

Despite calls to permit the group to stay in Ireland, Irish government officials insisted adamantly that they had to be returned and media coverage of the issue was infused with racist rhetoric. On the night of 25 July, at least 70 members of the Romani encampment were flown from Dublin to Bucharest, having agreed to be repatriated on flights paid for by the Romanian government. The remaining members followed them soon afterwards.

(The Independent)


Challenge discrimination, promote equality


Receive our public announcements Receive our Roma Rights Journal


The latest Roma Rights news and content online

join us

Find out how you can join or support our activities