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Gent demands answers about Roma

THE MAYOR of the Belgian city of Gent has sent an open letter to the European Commission and the Belgian government in reaction to information that a wave of immigrants from the infamous Lunik IX neighbourhood in Košice is coming to the city.

THE MAYOR of the Belgian city of Gent has sent an open letter to the European Commission and the Belgian government in reaction to information that a wave of immigrants from the infamous Lunik IX neighbourhood in Košice is coming to the city.

The Slovak Catholic Charity (SKCH) confirmed this information for the Slovak media, citing its sister organisation in Gent. The SKCH was the first to report that many of the inhabitants of the flats in the Lunik IX neighbourhood are moving to Belgium, while those who decided to stay are building illegal dwellings in the vicinity of the development.

“We have received information from our sister organisation Caritas Belgium that they have noted a wave of Roma families from Lunik IX,” the SKCH’s spokesperson Lukáš Melicher said, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

The staff of the Caritas organisation in Gent have asked their Slovak counterparts about what was happening in Slovakia that could be behind the massive flow of Roma into Belgium, the Charity’s General Secretary Radovan Gumulák confirmed, as quoted by SITA.

The Belgian social workers report the Roma cite housing problems as the main reason for leaving Slovakia.

More than 1,700 Roma from Slovakia were living in Gent in 2012, according to the Sme daily.

Mayor Daniel Termont wrote in his open letter that they are trying hard to integrate the immigrants, but the city has exceeded its capacities.

“We acknowledge the free movement of persons in the EU, but it should be clear that this internal mobility also has negative effects in our region,” Sme cited Termont’s letter. The mayor went on to blame the Slovak authorities for the exodus of Roma.

Gent is a multicultural city, made up of more than 160 different nationalities, said Frank Phillips, Gent’s deputy mayor for migration, as reported by Sme.

“We are a social city, but the increase of poverty we see here in the recent months and years is too much for a city like Gent,” the public-service Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) quoted Philips as saying. “We cannot take anymore, we need help. If Slovak Roma prefer to sleep in parks on benches or in deserted houses here in Gent, their situation in Košice or elsewhere in Slovakia must be very bad.”

Gent’s authorities are asking the government and the EC to investigate whether the information about another wave of Roma immigrants that appeared in the media is true, Sme wrote.

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