11th International Metropolis Conference,
Lisbon, 2-6 October 2006

FORUM-Workshop ‘Social Housing, moving people into bus...
amongst us since medieval times, but still marginalized and
excluded as important public European bodies stated 3 .
Imagin...
For this utopian and minutely detailed plan for the city of the
future the ‘Gypsy Camp’ served as a model and key element ...
New Babylon, 1969 © Constant
The ‘Framework for living’ had to be built in co-operation with
the inhabitants of the city t...
the aid of boxes and planks left behind by the traders. The need
to clean up the market place every time the Zingari passe...
sedentarisation is the norm, and nomadism is getting
exceptional. ‘Camps’ turn into ‘shanty towns’ in the outskirts of
the...
In addition to this Collective Complaint, the Decision of the
Committee and the subsequent Roundtable in the field, there ...
enforced upon the former mobile group of Travellers and
Gypsies: a ‘social welfare for settling down-swap’. Traditional
tr...
to be compared with the large shanty town-type settlements
treated before, they are nevertheless generally considered as ‘...
other part, living in houses in or near the neighborhoods, would
like to inhabit a mobile home (sometimes: again; f.e. tra...
For example the Council of Europe’s research (‘Access to
Public Health for Romani women’, 2002), succeeded by the
assessme...
The executive personnel is distinguishes in terms of capability,
expertise, cultural sensibility and flexibility between b...
group of people with whom they are only familiar in terms of
trouble or ‘from hear say’.
Conclusions.
As a conclusion we c...
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Gypsy camp, constant, 11th metropolis conference

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Gypsy camp, constant, 11th metropolis conference

  1. 1. 11th International Metropolis Conference, Lisbon, 2-6 October 2006 FORUM-Workshop ‘Social Housing, moving people into business and interaction’: The Roma Case in the Netherlands, presented by Peter Jorna 1 . ___________________________________________________ I am grateful to have the opportunity to reflect on ‘the Romacase’ 2 . Especially here: identifying this particular issue for a cosmopolitan and multi-disciplinary conference, with an audience composed of academics, public functionaries, policy makers as well as representatives of the civil society. This week we have the opportunity to work towards a cross-sector approach, to exchange views on how to address the problems and challenges inherent to a globalized and urbanized environment: how to develop, design or project a ‘Metropolis’ in which immigrants, minorities, newcomers and outsiders feel at home, forming an integral part of a sustainable livelihood. To my opinion the ‘Roma-case’ -not the Gypsy- ‘problem’, mind you - I referred to, should be part of that complex issue. The Roma form a transnational minority. Migratory and mobile, even when settled for ages in a particular country or nation-state. They are neglected, generally, rather unknown at best, and puzzling us how to be approached. They are part of Metropolis, in short. ‘Paths and Crossroads: Moving people, changing places’, as the Conference underlying motto is, is quite appropriate a phrase in the particular case of the Roma. Imagine the approximately 810 million Roma, a ‘true European Minority’, being here 1 Staff member of FORUM, the Dutch Institute for Multicultural Development, and permanent member for the Netherlands of the Committee of Experts on Roma and Travellers for the Council of Europe. 2 The term Roma used here follows the ‘code’ generally accepted in International (non)Governmental circuits, such as the Council of Europe, and refers to Roma, Sinti, Manouches, Kalé, Gitanos, Ciganos, Zingari, Travellers, Gens du Voyage, and aims to cover the wide diversity of related groups in Europe concerned. In the context of the UK also, by self-nominating, referred to with the term ‘Gypsies’. 1
  2. 2. amongst us since medieval times, but still marginalized and excluded as important public European bodies stated 3 . Imagine that they are an all inclusive part of the projects we are heading for: no longer the ‘Other’ we come across, an ‘Outsider’ trespassing, or ‘the Stranger unwished for’ as Roma people are generally seen, but ‘being fully there’, enjoying the full fledged rights of citizenship, in which a far reaching and deeply rooted cultural richness has been taken into account. Not any longer considered as ‘economically non-existent’ or worse, ‘human waste’, but as a ‘logical’, natural partner in coping with the continental challenges that are at stake. Later on I will treat the situation in the Netherlands and trace some good practices. I am glad Médecins du Monde will share their experiences and expertise with us today. And the fact that the situation in the hosting country, that is the City of Lisbon, can be touched upon as well, is a good thing. We are glad that mr. Toy, working for the city council as mediator and ‘Cigano’ or Rom himself, has been found ready to bring in some local developments. We thank mrs. Manuela Mendes, of the Technical University of Lisbon, and the Portuguese High Commission for Immigrants and Ethnic Minorities for their efforts to make it possible that the Roma mediator is in the opportunity to participate today. Before unfolding my story, I would like to share with you a ‘petit histoire’. It is about the origin of a large project called ‘New Babylon’: a symbolic representation of a visionary Metropolitan town. It is not the skyrocketing New York look-alike with the concomitant new type of man that Fritz Lang envisaged in his famous movie in 1927. It is a vast, low leveled network of interdependent ‘Sectors’, developed by Constant Nieuwenhuys (1920-2006), founding father of the CoBrA group (the avant garde movement of painters and architects, forming the continental triangle Copenhagen – Berlin – Amsterdam). 3 Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly, Res. 1203/1993 and the report of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, 2006; the EU Parliament, Res. April 2005). Their presence is not restricted to the European continent: the Americas, Australia, Asia and Africa account for appr. another 4 million persons. 2
  3. 3. For this utopian and minutely detailed plan for the city of the future the ‘Gypsy Camp’ served as a model and key element for artistical and ideological inspiration. Under one roof, with the aid of moveable elements, a shared residence is built; a temporary, constantly remodeled living area, a ‘camp for nomads on a planetary scale’. A Gypsy Town turned into an architectural project lasting for more than ten years. It generated a series of maquettes of a complex that could be taken apart, transported and reassembled. The project New Babylon started in the aftermath of World War Two, in the fifties, when the flat bombed cities were rebuild, and it was part of the reaction against the modern, rationalist architecture of city planners and, in the end, against capitalism 4 . 4 For further details on the elaboration of this movement, see Peter Wollen’s essay on ‘ Situationists and Architecture’ (New Left Review 8, mar-apr 2001, p. 123-139) and on the elaboration of the New Babylon project, see Constant Nieuwenhuys in the Exhibition Catalogue published by the Haags Gemeentemuseum, the Hague, 1974). 3
  4. 4. New Babylon, 1969 © Constant The ‘Framework for living’ had to be built in co-operation with the inhabitants of the city themselves, whose free input was needed, and not to be imposed from outside. And that was what Constant did. In fact, the Gypsy Camp was a concrete livelihood for real, fixed in time and space. Here is, in short, his narrative report of his visit to Piemonte, Italy, in 1956. For many a year the gypsies who stopped a while in the little Piedmontese town of Alba, were in the habit of camping beneath the roof that, once a week, on Saturday, housed the life stock market. There they lit their fires, hung their tents from the pillars to protect or isolate themselves, improvised shelters with 4
  5. 5. the aid of boxes and planks left behind by the traders. The need to clean up the market place every time the Zingari passed through had let the town council to forbid them access. In compensation, they were assigned a bit of grassland on the banks of the Tamaro, the little river that goes through the town: the most miserable patches! It’s there that in December 1956 I went to see them in company of the painter Pinot Gallizio, the owner of this uneven, muddy, desolate terrain, who’d given it to them. They’d closed off the space between some caravans with planks and petrol cans, they’d made an enclosure, a ‘Gypsy Town’. That was the day Constant conceived the scheme for a permanent encampment for the gypsies of Alba and, in the end, of a project called New Babylon. I am not suggesting a plea for a presupposed precious contribution of the ‘Beauty of the Gypsy’ or the ‘Primitive Isolate’. And even more, being an cultural anthropologist by profession, I have been learned that one should not take the ‘Native’s point of View’ for granted. Neither the artist’s one: the engagement of a ‘Bohemièn’ with the Gypsies seems to be romanticism nowadays. But what we could learn from this is a key element of a sound approach, promoted by all important European institutions: to collect first hand information in direct contact, face to face with the people ‘targeted’. Policy makers, project designers, city planners and architects should actively reach out for consultation of the Roma in function of a co-produced or interactive policy. What about the concept of the ‘Gypsy Camp’ and the ‘Nomadic Way of Life’? And what about the settled ones? This ‘petit histoire’ of Alba could have been of all places and all times. Classical elements and forces of push and pull, that makes me think of the first entrée of the ‘Egyptians’ in the mercantile townships of the Low Lands (Deventer and Utrecht, 1420). Indeed, the itinerant lifestyle, in extended families or compania, whether or not in function of trades and crafts, still occurs. In Italy as well as in the Netherlands. But settlement or 5
  6. 6. sedentarisation is the norm, and nomadism is getting exceptional. ‘Camps’ turn into ‘shanty towns’ in the outskirts of the larger cities close to, f.i., airports. Nowadays the use of the term ‘nomadism’ for policy reasons is under fire. The old ‘argument’ that Roma people are nomads, as a pretext not to invest in proper housing or to move them because of new city plans without decent alternatives, needs to be strongly condemned. So let’s face reality, anno 2006, and see that something still can be done, f.i. on the field of social housing, on the European and local level, and in the light of European standards and enforcement 5 . That European legal measures are brought tot the local levels (with the possibility to be put into practice?) shows the organized action towards Italy’s housing policy. Only recently, a Roundtable took place on ‘Combating Segregation and Social Exclusion of Roma and Sinti in Italy’ (Rome, 8th of May 2006). The meeting convened representatives of the Council of Europe, Italian authorities, grass roots NGO’s as well as the European Roma Rights Centre. The ERRC had submitted the collective complaint under the Revised European Social Charter mechanism. Shortly before this Round Table meeting, the European Committee of Social Rights condemned Italy’s ‘Campland’ Policies in three distinct violations of Europe’s Premiere Social Rights body, referring to Article 31 on effective access of the right to housing. Ruling on the ERRC complaint the Committee contested unanimously: - The insufficiency of campsites for nomadic Roma. - The forced evictions and other sanctions. - The lack of permanent dwellings 6 . 5 Two important recommendations of the Council of Europe have adopted by the Committee of the Ministers of its member states, on The Movement and Encampment of of Travellers, Rec(2004)14, and on Improving the housing conditions of Roma and Travellers, Rec(2005)4. 6 Press release ERRC, Rome, 24-04-2006. Article 31: ‘to promote access to housing of an adequate standard (1), to prevent and reduce homelessness with a view to its gradual elimination (2), and to make the price of housing accessible to those without adequate resources’ (3), taken together with Article E. 6
  7. 7. In addition to this Collective Complaint, the Decision of the Committee and the subsequent Roundtable in the field, there had been political and diplomatic ‘peer pressure’ within the Council of Europe. The Committee of Ministers adopted a Resolution referring to this collective complaint, taking notice of the decision and requesting measures as well as reporting on the improvements 7 . Of course, Italy is not the only one, but only one of the filed examples. Recently Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights draw the attention towards an increase of this widespread phenomenon in recent months, referring to Greece, France, the UK, Czech Republic, Turkey, Albania, Bulgaria and the Russian Federation 8 . As a resume and by way of conclusion so far, I want to underline the observation that poor housing conditions is a major cause of Roma exclusion in Europe. The Netherlands. What about the Netherlands? What happened here in policy terms since the sixties of the twentieth century – the decade in which Constant developed his long term project New Babylon, inspired by ‘the Gypsy Camp’. In the reconstruction period following World War Two, the Dutch policy was focused on settling down and concentrating the itinerant, traveling population into large camps (50) of approximately 100 sites each and spread over the country in the margins of urban zones. It started as an ‘all inclusive’ policy, intentionally designed to ‘emancipate’ this as a substratum considered part of the Dutch population. A package deal was 7 Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers, Resolution ResChs(2006)4, Collective Complaint No. 27/2004. 8 See the Viewpoint-article of the High Commissioner, Thomas Hammerberg, first published (04-092006) on www.commissioner.coe.int. In a recent speech (18-09-2006) on Joint International Helsinki Conference on Housing Rights the Commissioner stressed the importance of non-discriminatory legislation in ensuring socially inclusive housing policies for vulnerable groups such as the homeless and the Roma. See also The Report on the Human Rights situation of the Roma, Sinti and Travellers in Europe, CommDH (2006)1. 7
  8. 8. enforced upon the former mobile group of Travellers and Gypsies: a ‘social welfare for settling down-swap’. Traditional trades and crafts ran out of custom and practice in the rapidly industrializing Netherlands. Traditional occupations were replaced by the car-demolition activities, all present on the camps and gradually moved to separate locations because of environmental reasons. Featuring the risk of isolation and segregation, this policy of concentration was turned, from the seventies onwards, into the other side: the large camps at the outskirts of the cities were to be transformed into more and smaller camps, incorporated into the inhabited urban and rural zones. This policy making process of de-concentration, de-centralization and normalization has recently coming to a close. Policies towards the traveling population were designed in function of and set by the Caravan Act (1918 – 1999). This special law was supposed to contain the traveller population, geographically and demographically, by defining who is where allowed to inhabit a mobile home and what is exactly a caravan or ‘mobile home’. Normative and quantitative planning was enforced upon municipalities by regional governments (provinces); the monitoring and providing task was taken care of by the central government. After the abolishment of the ‘Caravan’ Act, municipalities are left free from supra governmental pressure, trying to transfer their obligations to the housing corporations (as the ‘mobile home’ is acknowledged as a legitimate form of housing, according to the law on public housing in 1993). The longstanding shortage in the supply of campsites (3.000 fall short on the available 9.700 sites) still is a real problem, especially for the younger generation. In fact, the campsite turned into a commodity-asset, subjected to market processes. ‘Nomadism’ is not an issue. Mobile home-constructions are pretty fixed and a lot of them are even doubled through second floors in height or width. Although the Dutch camps are hardly 8
  9. 9. to be compared with the large shanty town-type settlements treated before, they are nevertheless generally considered as ‘No go areas’ and this way coming close to the negative effects and imagery of the concept of a ‘nomadic camp’. Recently, more severe controle mechanisms have been put into force. Since 2003 the camp sites are labeled in policy terms as ‘Free States’, subjected to special treatment for law enforcement. Public Ministry and police are operational in the collection of taxes, rents, gas and electricity bills, as well as in the combat of supposed wide spread illegal activities (such as the construction and maintenance of greenhouses for the growth of weed). In public imagery the campsites are conceived as centers of refuge, where the notion of citizenship in terms of civil duties and obligations are absent. Like in Italy Dutch governments gradually grew fixated on the physical aspects of housing (construction and maintenance of camps and sites), within the realm of the concentration and deconcentration policies. Education, employment and care were of relatively minor interest. Although progress has been made, compared with the majority and other cultural minorities the Travellers, Sinti and Roma stay far behind. In fact, regardless of the paternalism and segregation aspects of the Caravan Act, the addressed group itself protested against the abolition, arguing that there is not any defense mechanism left for them and that municipalities are not monitored anymore by central government on implementing their tasks towards this population and way of housing. In fact, municipalities are in a process of transferring their tasks to housing corporations and private companies. Nowadays the estimates of their numbers, generally accepted, are approximately 40.000 persons, divided roughly into Sinti and Roma (5.000 up to 10.000 persons) and Travellers (30.000), residing in the approximately Dutch 450 municipalities. Of this population, 75% live in mobile homes fixed on campsites; the 9
  10. 10. other part, living in houses in or near the neighborhoods, would like to inhabit a mobile home (sometimes: again; f.e. travelers who moved to houses, or Roma that came here in the seventies and were integrated through fixed houses). Other won’t even think about living in mobile homes on camps (f.e. the Roma refugees from the Balkan). A rough explanation for these differences. Refugees (Roma) recently coming to the Netherlands during the Balkan wars or after the Fall of the Iron Curtain, were all ready sedentarised under communism. The Roma-group that moved to and fro in Europe, by caravans in the seventies, and finally granted General Pardon by the Dutch government was not allowed to opt for or settle down in mobile homes. Arguments were found in the special clause on descent and persons entitled to live in mobile homes (in the former Caravan Act, article 18) and in the Dutch policy of integration through settlement in houses in common neighborhoods. Good practices. In the Netherlands the population of Roma, Sinti and Travellers is nearly invisible in public life. Their political participation is low or nearly absent, public functions are not within reach because of the educational gap as well as (indirect) discrimination 9 . The few good practices, we treat shortly here, are all embedded in long term processes in which Sinti and Roma themselves operate quite active, municipalities take the lead and the risk, or commissioned the implementation of the project to experienced, dedicated and trustworthy organizations. In this respect it is important to refer to the role of ‘Europe’, finding it’s way, through Coe and EU bodies, into the Netherlands. 9 Monitor series on Racism and the Extreme Right: Roma and Sinti. Anne Frank House and Leiden University. 2005. 10
  11. 11. For example the Council of Europe’s research (‘Access to Public Health for Romani women’, 2002), succeeded by the assessment of Médecins du Monde (2003) and a training project for women together with the grassroots organizations (2004 onwards). Another example of Europe’s effective presence on this particular field was the visit of the Council of Europe to the Netherlands (2005), as part of the social rights research, which resulted in meetings with housing corporations, local authorities and NGO’s, and site-visits to Roma and Sinti camps. Important as well is the fact that the Netherlands is represented through one delegate within the European Forum for Roma and Travellers, an umbrella NGO based in Strasbourg. And promising as well is the start of a Dutch young Roma this month as a trainee in the internship program of the Council of Europe. The European opportunity structure is still under used on the local level. Some practical projects in the field of employment, however, are promising in terms of shaping future ‘best practices’. First, in some smaller municipalities within the Eindhoven region an integration company implements a project based on the approach of individual coaching towards employment 10 . This ESF program is targeted to employ and educate Sinti and Roma through vocational schooling. The project is operating within an area of 5 different camps inhabited by 500 persons and is focusing on the youth, offering intensified and individually coached tracks, based on mutual trust and aiming towards a diversified opportunity-structure. The path towards small enterprises forms one possible direction, working for wages within smaller companies is the reasonable and attractive alternative. A music group and studio-company is one of the results, alternatives are automobile and car repair business, handicrafts (furniture), or cleaning. 10 The reintegration company is called the WSD-group, based in Eindhoven and covers the Sinti and Roma project under the name Pluspunt. 11
  12. 12. The executive personnel is distinguishes in terms of capability, expertise, cultural sensibility and flexibility between both demanding sides (municipality and targetgroup). The consultants manage to maneuver within the limits set and succeed in visualizing the results. Dissemination of these good results may run a chance but mainstreaming remains a problem, running the risk that these experiments will be seen as exceptional and not applicable to other contexts or municipalities. As a precondition, a relatively higher level of education provides a sound base, as well as the involvement of parents. Still, even here, there remain several problems to be solved, influencing directly the sustainability of the experiment. Especially on the field of housing. Because of the ongoing shortage of campsites for the youth, tensions A second example is to found in the urban are of Rotterdam (the municipality of Capelle) where an employment project (20052007) started, based on a groups approach aiming towards family enterprises (car repair, car trade). Here the starting base was formed, years ago (2003), when FORUM started years ago to bridge the communication gap and broke through the impasse between the local Roma community and the local administration. Having finished the training period to accomplish competences like having a meeting, organizing, presenting one selves in front of public functionaries - in short: ‘being comfortable and effective in the public domain’. Having put this into practice, the Roma men succeeded in promoting their demands for developing a learning by doing track that is supposed to result into family run companies. In fact, this Equal project foresees in concrete learning tracks / routes for 25 persons (16 men and 9 women). The important step is here that Roma create alternatives for the existing impasses, gaining self-esteem, enforcing their position as inhabitants in the public domain and are looking towards this initiative as project owners. Local functionaries, as well as regional centers of schooling and training are challenged to deal, in a constructive way, with a 12
  13. 13. group of people with whom they are only familiar in terms of trouble or ‘from hear say’. Conclusions. As a conclusion we could turn to the ‘Gypsy Camp’, the metaphor in our ‘petit histoire’ we started with. The ‘Gypsy Town’ as a metaphor for a ‘New Babylon’, a ‘New Metropolis’, as a model for a new way of operating. A long term project connecting people, organizations, making alliances or consortia, so as to interconnect different agenda-settings of different circuits, on a local as well as European or even global level. Let’s optimistically end in stating that the opportunity structures are there, let’s fancy in the discussion how to get them work more effectively. 13

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