Wednesday 7 December 2016

Cllr Carr raises key questions on Brent's Eastern Europeans report

Guest blog by Dr Helen Carr, Indepedent councillor in Brent, on the report about the Eastern European community in Brent. Publication does not mean that I agree with everything said in the article but I think Cllr Carr raises important issues. The original report is HERE


Feedback, comments, notes & queries re: ‘East European Communities Living in LB of Brent’

1.1.What do you mean by ‘socio economic barriers’? Barriers to what? Who and what is this report for? What is this report intended to do? To describe, compare and contrast who, what and why?
‘Does not include rough sleepers, overcrowding or anti-social behaviour’. Why not? Surely these are all ‘socio economic barriers’ 

1.2 ‘Eastern European’ – which countries exactly? This is a redundant Cold War term, similar to ‘Eastern Bloc’. Does this include the Central Europe (Mittle Europea) Balkans (not all in the E.U.), the Baltics, and South Eastern Europe (Romania and Bulgaria)?
3.1 Romania is in South Eastern Europe. Where is the evidence the Polish community is settled? 

 Which Poles? Why are ‘Poles’ settled and Romanians not? What do you mean by ‘settled’?

By Romanians, do you mean ‘Romanian speakers’, Roma(ny), Romanian speakers from Moldova? Cigany (Gypsy Roma) forms of speech can be heard in and around Mapesbury alone. Speakers can be divided into two groups: Beas (archaic Romanian, similar to Chaucer’s English), Csengo and Lovari (a Magyar Romanian mix found in Banat and Transylvania). How do you know what type of passports / ID people hold? Even if documents can be produced, the black market trade in ID passports, especially for non EU peoples not entitled to work in the UK is thriving. Not all peoples of Romania speak what the Romanian State understands as ‘modern Romanian’. Even in 2001, there was not an agreed official orthography.

Where is the evidence for any of this material? This is a public document. This might not be an academic paper, but this does not mean there should not be intellectual rigor. The majority? How many is the ‘majority’? How was the material collected and by whom? Over what time frame – did anyone attend any of the Romanian Churches/Church groups? In which case, it would be obvious that many women, who are not necessarily publicly and obviously visible (why would they be?), live and work in the hotel and catering industry, or as domestic workers (servants). 

'Men and women are ‘sex workers’. Are ‘East European’ female sex workers subject to ‘abuse and violence’ and ‘health inequalities’ more or less than other sex workers? What about the men? Or are all Eastern European women sex workers?

3.4 Where is the evidence for any of this material? There are sufficiently few numbers to be specific.

Homeless referrals (Start Plus): Not all peoples in Romania are considered ‘white’: is this description or ascription? Cigany/Romany peoples in Hungary especially are described as ‘our black problem’.  

4. Recommendations
4.1 The most obvious issue here is, what for? Is this report intended to ‘get a better understanding’ of...? What languages are required if ‘information and support’ are to be provided? What if the ‘clients’ are not literate in the mother tongue?
4.3 What do you mean by ‘personal and social skills’? Are all ‘East Europeans’ smokers who are anti-social, mentally ill, substance abusers and prostitutes?
4.6 ‘Ethnographic Research: to inform outreach.’  Conducted by whom? To what end? Shouldn’t this have been conducted before this report was produced?
5.0. Where is the money for this ‘research’ coming from? What for? This statement is meaningless. Who decides ‘need’?
6.0 I am afraid there may be legal implications from this report: is the report intended to demonstrate deprivation or discrimination? Of who? By who? Unfortunately, the authors do seem to have demonstrated their own prejudice and discrimination. This report is in the public domain. I refer the authors of this report to the recent publications of the Equalities Commission and Hate Crime.
7.0 As above.
8.0 As above. I am concerned a staff member of Brent with the job title ‘Head of Equality’ has produced this report. There is insufficient material related to the role of the ‘Partnerships and Engagement Manager’ to warrant inclusion.
Why are there no background papers?   

The ‘Situation of the Roma’, as it has become known, has been seen in terms of discrimination and deprivation. In November 1998, I contributed to a report commissioned by the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) in which I first voiced concerns about alleged abuses of Roma in Hungary.[1] In particular, “of cases concerning inhuman and degrading treatment.”[2] The situation of the Roma was and is understood in terms of relative deprivation, or ‘lack’: the lack of decent salary and income, good housing, satisfactory clothing and nutrition, healthy drinking water, education, and the ability to compete with non-Cigany (Kemeny 1992: 157). Public and state discourse has until recently perceived the cause of this ‘lack’ as the Cigany culture itself. Integration has always been seen as a solution (Stewart 1993: 187).

It seems from this report, that almost 20 years later, the same prejudices and discrimination are being applied by Brent Council to sections of its own population.

I am concerned about why people are leaving in huge swathes of Europe to seek a life in the UK. As EU citizens they are entitled to work, but not claim asylum (and all the rights and privileges this allows). Yet they too are fleeing poverty, distress, discrimination and deprivation, and also war: the war in the Crimea following Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine has inevitably sent populations fleeing westwards, as has the build-up of Nato troops along the Baltic borders with Russia. I represent all residents in my ward, and the Borough, not just the noisy, rich posh ones. I am particularly concerned those groups such as Roma who are an under/ unrepresented socio-economic demographic in the political process have a voice:  they tend to be excluded and avoid participation precisely because of the sort of discrimination and prejudice exhibited in this report.  

We need to demonstrate our commitment to human rights and protection of minority groups, especially important in the current toxic climate. Reports such as these are at the very least unhelpful. At worst, legitimise prejudice and discrimination because they emanate from the State - a Local Authority (and one with no ethnic majority at that). 

Public Space Protection Order

I wonder if this report is intended to legitimise the further extension of the Public Space Protection Order in Mapesbury? This is a tool originally intended to prevent large crowds gathering and ergo protect the public (and property) from injury and damage. It is not intended to protect house prices or enhance gentrification. I object again to the renewal of this Order in Mapesbury. 

We need to see the police records and statistics if we are to assess the usefulness of this Order: which crimes? How are they linked to the Order? Who commits these crimes and what category of crimes are they? If the police receive complaints about ‘migrant’ workers, from who? Where? What sort of complaints? How many, when, and how many are generated by the same people over what period of time?   

If we exchange the term ‘East European migrant worker’ with ‘Jew’ or ‘black’, would we be comfortable with this report?  

Cllr. Dr Helen Carr, Research Associate, University of Oxford, School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography: Elected Fellow Royal Anthropological Institute; UK Delegate and Representative, Congress of the Council of Europe.

[1] United Nations Press Releases. Hungary Presents Report to Committee against Torture. HR/CAT/98/38. November 17, 1998.
[2] United Nations Committee Against Torture. Conclusions and Recommendations of the Committee Against Torture - Hungary. United Nations Publications. November 19, 1998.

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