The struggle of Roma people in Ghent, Belgium

- Blog | REYN Admin

By Samira Wymeersch, REYN member from Belgium.

I live in Ghent, a city in the Northern Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, with more or less 250.000 inhabitants. These last years the city of Ghent has changed: the European Union has welcomed a number of new members, such as Bulgarians, Slovakians and Romanians. The people of Ghent met with people migrating from these countries; many of them were of Roma origins.

Some of them, mostly the Bulgarians, had the ambition to stay and were embedded in the network of the Turkish families (Turkish migrant workers were invited to come and work in Belgium in the ’60). Many others came unprepared and were pushed out by their home countries through discrimination and exclusion – mostly Slovakia. Others roamed: they came when they saw an opportunity and they left when they ran out of money – mostly Romanians.

In a very short time there was a large inflow, which put pressure on services and provisions. There were problems with housing, temporary jobs, exploitation and sometimes discrimination. The city of Ghent made up a policy on these new Intra-European Migrants; called IEM from now on. There are two tracks in this policy: one is focusing on integration; the other tackles abuse and social safety.

The project for which I work (BIEM – Brugfiguren Intra-Europese Migratie / School Mediators Intra-European Migration Project) is can be situated in the ‘integration-track’.

In particular, we want all children from the age of 2 and ½ till the age of 12 years (at least) to be able to enjoy the right to education in a qualitative way. We believe that education is a strong tool to empower people and to enlarge their possibilities and choices in life.


We aim to bridge gaps between the conditions in which some of the children of these newly arrived migrants live and the expectations that school have.
We work on building trust between all relevant actors.
We strive to link parents and children from different origins and ideologies – amongst each other and with school teams and other professionals.

We love to blur boundaries when working together with education staff; social workers; early childhood specialists; etc. in order to come to an effective collaboration.
We build bridges between institutions and between people.