Community champions from Roma gypsy communities in Great Yarmouth, Ipswich, Luton, Peterborough and Southend to help Fenland Council in £150,000 study

PUBLISHED: 16:15 17 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:46 17 August 2017

Photos by John Band that were on display in Wisbech two years ago demonstrating Roma gypsy heritage.

Photos by John Band that were on display in Wisbech two years ago demonstrating Roma gypsy heritage.

Archant

Based on 2011 Census figures, Fenland is home to around 500 travellers/gypsies but many believe the number is double that.

Photos by John Band on display two years ago in Wisbech showing Roma gypsy heritagePhotos by John Band on display two years ago in Wisbech showing Roma gypsy heritage

Now a £150,000 government study is being launched to integrate the Roma community – thought to account for two thirds of Cambridgeshire gypsies- and to tackle discrimination.

The money is being channelled through Fenland District Council who will take the lead on what officials say is “one of the most vulnerable and misunderstood migrant communities in the region”.

Working in partnership with the East of England Strategic Migration Partnership (SMP), the council will deliver the two-year Parallel Lives project in two phases

Councillor Mike Cornwell, portfolio holder for communities, said: “By engaging with Roma people, and bringing them closer to local services and service providers, this project will be a catalyst for Roma integration across the region’s most highly pressurised areas of inward migration.”

Photos by John Band on display in Wisbech two years ago showing Roma gypsy heritage.Photos by John Band on display in Wisbech two years ago showing Roma gypsy heritage.

“The longer-term gain for the established community is a more cohesive environment where all residents are encouraged and enabled to co-exist harmoniously, rather than living lives which can induce mistrust, exclusion and the socio-economic costs of racial violence.”

Fenland Council says the solutions will depend on the outcome of the first phase and the work will include involving Roma community champions from Fenland, Great Yarmouth, Ipswich, Luton, Peterborough and Southend.

County council studies show Fenland has a dominance of travellers from the gypsy/Roma tradition while in South Cambs travellers tend to be of Irish descent.

The population of travellers and gypsies is difficult to estimate. Travellers were not identified as an ethnic group in the 2001 Census though this changed in the 2011 Census but the numbers are still difficult to gauge and the Roma population was not identified separately.

In Cambridgeshire gypsies and travellers make up almost one per cent of the population representing the largest ethnic minority in the county. In Cambridgeshire it is estimated that approximately 70 per cent are Romany gypsies, 20 per cent are Irish travellers and 10 per cent are others including Scottish and Welsh travellers and an increasing number of Eastern European gypsies.

Fenland Council believes it is vital the Roma community is identified to address different communities living ‘parallel lives’.

A spokesman said: “Roma people are separate from gypsies, with totally different cultures and lifestyles. There is a need to learn more about them to aid integration in Fenland and across the East.” Without that “public funds are being wasted on activities that do not reach this section of the public”.

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