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Scots-Romanians angry at immigration documentary

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Romanian community in Scotland has hit out at a controversial Channel 4 documentary which focused on poverty stricken gypsy immigrants looking for a better life in the UK.

The second part of the documentary, The Romanians Are Coming, due to be shown tonight, claims to feature more “middle class” immigrants, including a care worker working in a nursing home, but the Scottish community says it does not go far enough in showing the diverse work force in the UK who have come from the eastern European country.

The Scotland-based Romanian diaspora have added their names to thousands of signatures on national petitions and say they are planning a protest if the next programme in the series does not show what they describe as a “more balanced” view of people who are travelling from the former Communist country to Britain.

The programme, which was first broadcast last week, has experienced a backlash in Romania. Of the people featured in the documentary, the vast majority were Roma gypsies, who live in extreme poverty in Romania, often in ghettoised communities. Roma make up around 3.3 per cent of the Romanian population.

Romanian foster carer Ioana di Mambro, from Glasgow, who heads a social group for Romanian people living in Scotland, said: “This is just another attempt, like many others before, to present a distorted reality. Decent Romanian people who study or work in the UK, paying taxes and contributing to the economy, are visibly offended by what Channel 4 has presented.”

Critics have argued that while the documentary sympathetically exposes the poverty experienced by the gypsy families in their home country, many members of the Romanian population living in Scotland work in professional jobs such as dentistry, engineering and medicine.

Scot John McKellar, who lives in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, and runs Bridging the Gap, a non-profit organisation which connects Romanian charitable organisations with businesses, said the Romanian reaction to the documentary had been mixed. “I’m really hoping that the upcoming programmes are going to focus on the skilled individuals that work hard to contribute not only towards a more prosperous Britain, but also towards their own families at home,” he said.

“If that’s one thing we can learn from the subjects of the first episode is that they are all looking towards making their own lives or those of their families better.” He added that some of the stereotyping of the “gypsy” narrator “left a nasty taste” in his mouth.

More than 100 Romanians protested outside Channel 4’s HQ in London, at the weekend. Dr Ion Jinga, Romanian ambassador to the UK, last week called for Channel 4 to edit the programmes to show a “less distorted” view. in Romania, the paper Adevarul yesterday displayed the words “Je suis Channel 4”, referencing the “Je suis Charlie” slogan which became a symbol of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France.

Case study: Cristina Popescu

CRISTINA Popescu, 33, has worked as a financial adviser since she arrived with her husband, Tinu, eight years ago. Mr Popescu has a job at a food processing company and the family lives in East Kilbride. “I think the documentary is absolutely disgusting,” she said.

“It does not show a balanced picture. We are decent people, we are taxpayers, we have never received benefits, nor do we want to.”

The couple, who have three children, Marco, 12, Sara-Eve Michelle, six and three-month-old Amelia, say they are worried about the backlash in the playground.

“I do not want my children to be ashamed of where they come from. I want them to be close to their roots. I am not worried for my husband and I, we are adults and know how to handle this. But I do not want my children to be affected by it.”

Ms Popescu added: “There have been protests in London but Romanians live all over the UK. I would like Romanians in Scotland to show people what we think about this.”

The Scotsman

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