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City of Ghent looks to integrate Roma families coming to Belgium

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By Meabh Mc Mahon
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A Roma family waiting at a barrier.
A Roma family waiting at a barrier.   -   Copyright  Michel spingler/AP

The Belgian city of Ghent wants to better integrate Roma families with funds and help from non-governmental organisations.

Special residential sites have been set up on the northern outskirts of the city to help them assimilate better into Belgian society.

Hannes Schotte, from Ghent county council, told Euronews that people living in the city will no longer put up with slums to host Romas as they are "inhumane".

"The people who lived in the slums before are here now," Schotte said. "The city is not tolerating anymore that more slums are built. That's very clear for the city that they don't want this because it is inhumane. They don’t want this situation anymore."

Euronews spoke to the family of Mario and Roxana that live in one of the residential sites, where they share kitchens and bathrooms. Their children have access to playgroups and cooking classes, as well as local schools.

"This is a good thing for me and my family. I came here to work, to be stable and to go forward," Mario said.

But he has to find a job soon and a roof for his family, which is where the help from NGO Caritas comes in, which helps run the site.

"After three years, people will be directed towards regular housing markets, or they will find other housing solutions which can be here in Belgium or in their country of origin if they are not able to integrate here in Belgium," Caritas project worker Gilles Van der Auwermeulen told Euronews.

Earlier this month, MEPs debated the long road ahead that Europe has to achieve real equality for Roma people.

"Up to 80% [of Romas] live in poverty because of their inherent ethnicity. The EU has the power to enable an equality and anti-gypsyism law for my people, and the European Parliament already took the first step in September 2020," Romeo Franz, a German MEP of Roma descent, said earlier this month.

NGOs want EU member states to implement the national Roma strategies they signed up to, which they say are even more urgent now as many Ukrainian Romas are fleeing the war too and need support from Europe.