The encampment has been actually built without permission, the sanitary conditions are bad and it is surrounded by a landfill.
The encampment conforms to the definition of a slum – there is no access to clean water, the rooms are shared by numerous families, the buildings are unstable and so far the residents have not been protected against deportation without a due legal process. People do not have ownership rights to the area, which is a municipal ownership and at the same time a public space - accessible to an indefinite number of people. By the standards of Poland, an emergence of an informal settlement inhabited by dozens of people is rare, because usually the homeless are dispersed. However, in the world it is not an unheard of phenomenon - according to the UNICEF report, 30% of children born in developed cities live in such conditions. Migrating groups of the poorest of the Roma immigrants create such makeshift settlements in many European countries, in an attempt to secure a shelter and fulfill basic needs at minimal cost.
It is false to claim that the Roma do not want to legalize their stay in Poland.
According to the EU law which guarantees the freedom of movement and residence, there is no such thing as an illegal residence of a EU citizen in another Member State. After three months of stay, however, there is an obligation to register. The registration of residence in Poland requires an address of permanent residence, a proof of income sufficient to independently support family, an employment contract and health insurance. For obvious reasons the Roma do not meet these requirements. Failure to comply with registration of residence duties carries a fine and a lack of privileges such as easier access to public services, but is not followed by any benefits. Therefore, the registration would be the interest of the Roma by all means. However, until the conditions required for the registration occur, the Roma immigrants remain somehow 'suspended'. Moreover, the Roma of the encampment were not even aware of such procedures up until a certain point.
It is true that the Roma are a culturally different group.
Roma culture, which roots go back to the Indian caste system, has evolved through centuries of the Roma functioning on the margins of society. However, despite the isolation in which it was forming, the influences of societies of particular countries left their stamp on the customs, language and shape of these groups. The closer the contact between representatives of the societies, the stronger the exchange on many levels. The Romanian Roma come from rural areas where tradition reigned, yet successive generations, brought up in exile, slowly begin to reach for the patterns of European culture. And, as a matter of a fact, of mass culture, the easiest for them to approach. The key to change the situation of the Roma is a dialogue between communities based on mutual explanation and understanding of the specifics of cultures, from which our way of thinking results. From such a dialogue emerges an interest in previously unfamiliar subjects (such as contraception which, apart from being a cultural taboo, was prohibited by Romanian law until the fall of the regime), or abandonment of old patterns. We must also remember that the primary contact between the Romanian Roma and the Polish society takes place during begging on the street - especially children pick up observed patterns, including the reactions directed against them.
It is not true that the Roma would find a job if they were only willing to look for it.
Polish labour market is hard to access for the Roma immigrants. The main problem - apart from discrimination and prejudices - is that the adult members of the Romanian Roma community have at best an incomplete primary education. Many of them are completely illiterate or have problems with correct Polish. This is also related to problems with the fulfillment of the formalities which, without help from the outside, condemns the individuals searching for a job themselves to remain in the black economy zone.
It is a fact that the Roma make a living mainly by begging.
Begging was the main activity undertaken by Romanian families that found their way abroad in the 1990s and it survived to this day. At the beginning raising compassion rather than condemnation and at the same time highly profitable, it has been consolidated due to a lack of prepared alternatives that resulted from wrong diagnosis of the begging who were treated as victims requiring humanitarian aid. To this day, the only way to deal with the begging that the authorities have developed is to prevent this practice, without seeking for solutions that would enable the begging to make a living in a different way. Often being the only source of income, begging marks the passing of day and week for all residents of the encampment, regardless of gender and age. The received income serves to satisfy the needs of all members of families as well as common needs of the encampment, such as petrol for the aggregate. It is the only non-seasonal occupation available to every member of the community, but also a barrier limiting the development of children and a source of intensification of animosities between communities.
"Wealth" of the encampment residents is a myth.
In the perception of poverty there still lingers the belief that owning a car, TV set or mobile phone is a status symbol of wealth. It is not. You can live below the poverty line and own a mobile phone. Especially when it is necessary in everyday life - or, on the contrary, if owning one serves to improve one's status in the eyes of their own and the others'. Culture of poverty is full of paradoxes, especially when it comes to habits and addictions of individuals affected by it. Moreover, because of the diversity of Roma groups living in Poland, erroneously treated as a homogenous whole, the members of the Romanian Roma community (the poorest group) are often identified with their Polish fellows with better living conditions. Hence the myth of a Romany - a beggar from a golden palace.
It is a fact that the Roma want to educate their children.
Contrary to the popular belief, the encampment residents declare their wish to send children to school. The children regularly participate in the activities that prepare them for school, run by volunteers. As EU citizens they have the right to education in Polish schools. However, the inclusion of the children in the education system has to be well-considered and requires introduction of solutions reducing the risk of rejection by the peer group. It is not only a matter of appropriately shaping the school environment - cultural education, integrating activities and leg-up programmes, but also of work in the children's family environment. The children will not have opportunities to go to school without stabilizing the economical situation of the families, to support of which they currently contribute.
It is not true that the Roma do not want changes.
No one would want to live at the mercy of the outside world, unsure about the future which depends solely on the decisions of the officials. If someone functions in such conditions, it is not their choice but a consequence of circumstances and mechanisms driving the poor in the state of so-called learned helplessness. The encampment on Kamieńskiego Street is burdensome not only to its Polish neighbours - life there is also difficult for the residents themselves. Focusing on survival from day to day limits the opportunities for development and the perspective for thinking about the future. Conflicts strengthen the sense of alienation and frustration, resulting in even greater seclusion of the community. This also makes any help from the outside more difficult – consequent social work with individual cases and with whole families is hard in a large, internally divided group.
The truth is that the Roma have no place to go.
The fact that EU law guarantees freedom of movement and residence, and that the Roma are used to the nomadic way of life does not mean that they can move elsewhere without making their already difficult situation worse. Most residents of the encampment do not have relatives in Romania able to support them, or property allowing them to make a living. A large part of the community consists of the generation already born in Poland, that speaks Polish as a second language – apart from the Romani dialect used among themselves. These children do not speak Romanian language anymore, which has also been given up by their parents. The move anywhere will mean to them neither more nor less than another trip into the unknown and a strikethrough of already existing opportunities - bonds formed between the group, especially children, and part of the Polish society.