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Romanian village embroiled in racism scandal over Sri Lankan bakery workers

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Romanian village embroiled in racism scandal over Sri Lankan bakery workers
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Romanian authorities are investigating a case of incitement to hatred and discrimination after 350 villagers gathered to protest against the employment of two Sri Lankan workers at a local bakery.

The two bakers were hired legally through a recruitment agency at a bread factory in Ditrau, in central Romania.

But some of the village's 5,000 inhabitants say they are afraid migrants will endanger the community's safety and cultural traditions.

"Let's pretend other entrepreneurs are hiring ... say, six foreign workers in our village," a blonde woman told the crowd on Monday. "After two years, these six will bring their families and after four or five more years, we will find ourselves surrounded by black people."

She added: "This is what we are afraid of. We are not afraid of the two Sri Lankan men, but of the consequences."

Working conditions and living standards in question

Bende Sandor, an MP for the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians living in Romania, claimed the meeting was not about racism.

"I didn't notice xenophobic tendencies at this gathering," he said. "It looks more like a conflict between the factory owners and the locals."

"The owner of the bakery is paying less money to all workers. They are all working too much, sometimes they work 24 hours per day," a village resident told local media.

The Romanian National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) filed a complaint for incitement to hatred and discrimination. Its president, Asztalos Csaba, called for tolerance and condemned discriminatory attitudes in Ditrau.

The Sri Lankan Embassy in Bucharest contacted the bakery to check on the two workers' living conditions in the area and to provide them consular assistance.

Romania's Labour Minister Violeta Alexandru also requested checks to be carried out at the bakery.

"What surprises me is the attitude of the local community regarding the fact that two people want to work here," she said. "Maybe they forget that many Romanians are working abroad and they could be in danger of being treated in the same way?"

Tends of thousands of Romanians have left the country in recent years to find work, particularly in western Europe.

The factory said it wouldn't give in to local pressure or dismiss its Sri Lankan employees. However, public anger may force the two to move to another village.

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