MADRID (Reuters) – A makeshift camp dubbed the “Gallinero” was demolished on the outskirts of Madrid this week and its 150 Roma residents offered alternative accommodation, but for those who have known little else, the change is daunting.
“The new house will be better than this, but we grew up here. It feels strange,” says Lipovehnch Bucurestean, 21, heavily pregnant with her second child.
Her toddler son picked through old toys strewn around their make-shift house as the Red Cross arrived to transport the family and their belongings to their new home.
Meanwhile, scrap collectors from another Roma community arrived in search of leftovers before bulldozers finished the three-day demolition.
The “Gallinero” or “chicken coop” had stood on the side of a motorway leading out of the capital since the early 2000s, a fragile mass of corrugated roofs, mangled wires and rotting garbage.
But some residents were uneasy with relocation plans outlined by authorities last year which include social housing and temporary shelters around the capital.
One of the relocated families, the Stans, will rent a state-owned flat in southern Madrid at a subsidised 75 euros ($86.80) a month.
The house is well-equipped and clean, in contrast to the fibre-board walls and open sewage gutters at the campsite. Still, the family said they felt unsettled and had already heard neighbours express reservations about their arrival.
“Mum cried when we left the camp,” said Beatriz, one of nine children at the flat, as volunteers helped set out their furniture.
Her parents arrived in Spain from Țăndărei, Romania, 17 years ago and had lived in the Gallinero for most of their time since. “She’s scared someone will take us,” Beatriz said.
“We aren’t dirty,” said Dayana, 6, hinting at the prejudice her family have sometimes faced outside of their tight-knit Roma community.
There are around 725,000-750,000 ethnic Roma living in Spain, according to the charity Minority Rights, making it one of the largest communities of its kind in Europe.
Roma from Romania make up a significant part of that number and, as Europeans, are permitted to live and work in Spain without visas.
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(Reporting by Isabel Woodford and Susana Vera; editing by Paul Day and Jason Neely)