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Romanian mayor accused of lying to gypsies, walling them into slum

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Promised new homes by the mayor of Baia Mare, dozens of gypsy families moved into a communist bloc-styled housing project in this Romanian town. People are now decrying that 33-year-old Mayor Catalin Chereches is racist, having since built a wall to further isolate the gypsy community, their apartments overflowing with sewage, mold and cold.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - About 500 gypsy families remain mired in a snow-bound slum in buildings that offer little respite from the biting winter cold.

The wall surrounding the community was built last June, and separates the Gypsy community from the rest of the town. Chereches says that this was part of a grand scheme to improve the lives of deeply impoverished families in the northern Romanian town. Critics are now accusing him of imprisoning the population in a ghetto and making their plight even worse.

Families live in appalling conditions there in an area where the temperatures plunge to sub zero temperatures. Many Romanians now say they would like to move to Britain in January 2014 when they gain the right to live and work unrestricted under European "freedom of movement" rules.

The concrete wall surrounding the community measures nearly six feet high. Built on an embankment, it appears much higher when you are inside the slum. It is constructed on one side of a Roma neighborhood of crumbling apartment blocks, but because it links with other buildings and walls, it encloses the area with few access points.

Chereches claims it was built to keep children safe from a main road. He also says that living conditions have improved by moving families away from a slum where naked children play in the dust with stray dogs and cats. But it still keeps Roma separate from other people and lacks space and bathrooms.

"It's clear; conditions there are not similar to the Hilton or Marriott. But this doesn't mean this is not a step forward towards their civilization and emancipation," Chereche said.

The local government started to relocate 1,600 Roma from improvised buildings in Baia Mare's "five pockets of poverty," including the Craica slum to the offices of a former copper factory, Cuprom.

Those who have moved to the Cuprom offices, near the area with the wall, signed papers to agree, but others still in their old homes fear eviction.

As of this month, plans to build modern social housing for the Roma consisting of 500 homes are in limbo, while funding is finalized and the search for a suitable site continues.

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