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ROMANIAN REFUGEES AND KENT CC TELL THEIR STORIES

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A group of 36 traumatised women and children Romanian gypsy refugees told their story for the first time, according...
A group of 36 traumatised women and children Romanian gypsy refugees told their story for the first time, according to The Observer (p5). As a posse of reporters and cameramen waited outside the Kentish hotel where they were boarded - after pursuing the asylum-seekers across the county - the refugees preferred public suspicion and press harassment to the discrimination in Romania.

Since arriving in Britain - when the menfolk were immediately sent to Rochester prison - the progress of the group has been closely followed in the press: the main reason they have been moved three time

in 10 days. Sections of the press have reserved particular vitriol for Kent social services, who have a legal obligation to feed and house the destitute. Much of the anger about the 'luxury' treatment of the

refugees, however, is based on misinformation.

The county council has not spent£100,000 on the Roma, as some newspapers have claimed; nurses have not been employed to look after the Roma and the language teachers are not being brought in to

teach them English. Council officers argue that they were forced to house them in a hotel because of a lack of bed and breakfast accomodation.

Kent director of social services Peter Gilroy said: 'When you are not used to living with an ethnic population, people are bound to be anxious. This can only be inflamed by this sort of media coverage'.

The problem of persecuted people seeking asylum is, he says, a European-wide problem. 'In Apulia in Italy, 25,000 Albanians turned up in one day and the Italians quietly got on and dealt with it'.

Officers from Kent have already visited Italy and the Czech Republic to investigate how they can liaise on asylum-seekers. The council is looking into setting up a consortium with other southern counties to

ease the load on Kent.

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