Brexit could be the 'new Windrush' for Roma people in Redbridge
PUBLISHED: 12:22 16 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:22 16 July 2019
Roma people in Redbridge could face a Brexit Windrush, a charity has warned.
Roma Support Group was selected by the Home Office to run a pilot to see whether groups from eastern Europe could successfully apply for residence in post-EU Britain.
The trial was organised after home secretary Sajid Javid said that EU nationals would easily be able to apply for settled status online.
Irish Travellers will not have to apply to enter or remain, but like all other EU citizens, Roma - many of whom can't read English and don't have access to a computer - will need to apply by June 2021 or by the end of 2020 in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
Mihai Calin from Roma Support Group said most Roma people in the pilot could not complete the forms by themselves and there isn't enough support available for them.
Out of 64 applications submitted only 3per cent of applicants were able to submit the documents without support.
More than 30pc of applications were also rejected from HMRC for not having the right documents uploaded.
"There is an assumption that they come from Romania and speak Romanian - but that is not true and they often don't get documents printed in a language they understand," Mr Calin said at the Redbridge Equalities and Community Council (RECC) meeting on Monday evening (July 15).
"Roma originated from north-west India more than 1,000 years ago and there are many different groups - they don't have one single cultural identity.
"Gipsies arrived 500 years ago in the UK whereas eastern European Roma arrived after 1990 following the fall of the communist bloc - they are not all the same."
Mihai is also concerned that Roma people could tick the wrong box and only be given entitlement to stay for five years instead of indefinitely despite having lived in Redbridge for years.
"If the work is not done in the right way because of different vulnerabilities we could end up having huge numbers of Roma being undocumented," he added.
"There is a lack of information by key public sector staff about 'who Roma are' in particular at schools and health and social services.
"Communication and support for accessing services is also a key issue in Redbridge."
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A member of the public said residents in Ilford have "issues and tensions" with Roma people, particularly around antisocial behaviour.
She asked what could be done to bridge the gap and suggested an event where Roma and settled residents ask each other questions to find out more about traditions.
"They may not be aware that what they are doing is upsetting a lot of people," she said.
"We need to have a gathering to find out more about each other."
Mihai said the Roma Support Group is open to facilitating cohesion and has previously invited police to speak at a well-known Roma cafe in the area.
However, when all the uniformed officers arrived in the shop, most of the customers got up and walked out.
"We tried again and I went down before the police arrived to explain what was going on.
"Some of them stayed and took photos with the police - there are lots of barriers and it is slow hard work but we are getting there."
David Landau of RECC said integration work was done at Uphall School, Ilford, which educates a lot of Roma children.
"We talked about Roma people's Indian connection and that brought people together," he said.
"We had funding from the Area 6 committee and kept doing the work until it ran out."
The RECC's annual meeting, held at the United Reformed Church Hall, Ethelbert Gardens, Gants Hill, also celebrated 50 years of the charity's existence.
A spokesman said: "RECC remains as relevant as ever.
"Discrimination, both individual and institutional still exists.
"For half a century RECC and its predecessors, sometimes at great cost to themselves, have stood up wherever necessary to individuals and organisations - however powerful - whose words or deeds could sow hatred or dissention between communities in the borough. We intend to continue with that too."