In several eastern European countries there is a war against the Roma. There are marches against them. Self-proclaimed vigilantes bully and threaten them. Walls are built around the sections of town where they live. Their houses are set on fire. They are forced out of their homes and sometimes brutally murdered. Almost everywhere, the authorities have stood aside.
The Roma are easy scapegoats. They're at the bottom of society, have no lobby and are poorly-organized politically. There is societal racism against them, and it is legitimized by a majority of the ruling elite. In 1993, after three Roma in the Romanian village of Hadareni were lynched with the involvement of the police, the government, in its official explanation, expressed understanding for the "anger of the villagers." And in February 2009, when right-wing extremists in the Hungarian village of Tatárszentgyörgy set the house of a Roma family on fire and shot the father and his young son as they fled from the flames, no member of the Hungarian government called on people to unite to stop the violence.
The lack of prospects for the Roma in eastern Europe has prompted tens of thousands of them, primarily from Romania and Bulgaria, to head west. Roma refugees have come to Italy, Spain, France, England, and recently also to Germany's large cities. In the western European countries they work for a couple of euros an hour doing cleaning, construction, or they beg. Some steal. For many, it is more than they could have ever imagined in their home countries.