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Romania Refugees
On the border of the Black Sea in southeastern Europe rests Romania, a country nestled between Ukraine and Bulgaria. With a population of roughly 21.6 million and one of the fastest-growing economies in the European Union, the nation has agreed to welcome refugees. The country has been willing to help refugees but is often left without the necessary resources to do so. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Romania:

  1. In November 2015, Romania agreed to welcome 6,205 refugees over the course of two years. Over 550 had entered the country by December 2016.
  2. In Romania, the government covers the expenses of individuals granted refugee status for six months to one year. After this period of time, those individuals are expected to be employed.
  3. Despite the six to 12 month grace period, refugees are required obtain an understanding of the Romanian language as well as some formal recognition of previous experience, academic degrees or other qualifications. Rarely are such documents easily available to refugees.
  4. Civil society organizations, rather than Romanian authorities, are often left with the task of offering refugees much-needed employment assistance.
  5. The Romanian Ministry of Labor does not assist refugees with their job searches; it only registers refugees in an unemployment database.
  6. Learning Romanian has been described by refugees as being a key factor to succeeding in the country. Unfortunately, Romania’s language courses have little structure and are often of low quality.
  7. Roughly 5,000 individuals have been granted Romanian refugee protection since 1991, yet only 2,584 individuals hold residency permits. Such numbers suggest that nearly half of Romania’s refugee population no longer reside in the country.
  8. Relocated persons in Romania can benefit from the Jesuit Refugee Service, which runs a project called “A New House.” The project aids refugees in finding affordable housing.
  9. Many refugees in Romania who arrived in 2016 were relocated by the European Union from Greece and Italy.
  10. Romania lacks resources for refugees, so the country is not receiving the waves of refugees that are entering other European countries. Therefore, Romania has relatively more time to plan exactly how to address the issue of refugee protection.

These facts about refugees in Romania may appear to be disheartening, but if the Romanian government can tackle the issue of resource allocation with thorough planning, the country may soon become a stable safe haven for refugees fleeing war-torn countries.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Google


Located at the merging point of central and southeastern Europe, Romania has the seventh-largest population in the EU. However, declining agricultural production and disparities between rural and urban populations have left many Romanians vulnerable to hunger. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Romania.

10 Facts About Hunger in Romania

  1. Hunger in Romania is linked to poverty, with 13.8 percent of the population living in absolute poverty. This is an improvement, however, as the poverty rate was 35.9 percent in 2000.
  2. The Romanian economy has been generally improving since the collapse of the Communist government in 1989. Economic reforms in the early 2000s and Romania’s entry into the EU in 2007 have led to an improving economic outlook.
  3. Poverty rates remain high in rural areas. Approximately 29.6 percent of Romanians in rural areas live in poverty, compared to 9.6 percent in urban areas.
  4. Poverty disproportionately affects single people, single-parent families, families with three or more children, and single people over 65. Roma populations are affected the most, with 58 percent living in poverty.
  5. Romania has an extensive welfare system in order to assist those in poverty. Roughly half the working population receives some kind of welfare, primarily for assistance with heating, electricity, and food.
  6. Hunger in Romania has an impact on children’s physical development. Approximately eight percent of Romanian children under the age of five are stunted. This is a lower rate than Russia, however, it is a higher rate than the Czech Republic and Yugoslavia.
  7. Homelessness also increases vulnerability to hunger in Romania. Approximately 5,000 people live on the streets in Bucharest alone, the majority of whom rely on soup kitchens and shelters for meals.
  8. Agriculture makes up a significant part of Romania’s economy, however, it has declined in recent years due to infrastructure and environmental challenges. While demand for agricultural products has risen, the challenge of getting goods to the markets has led to a decline.
  9. In order to combat agricultural decline, organizations, such as Heifer International, work to help link farmers with markets that are in need of their products, by providing transportation and networking opportunities.
  10. While Romanian schools do not provide free lunches, organizations like the Red Cross contribute meals as an incentive to keep kids in school and to provide them with the nourishment they need to succeed.

While hunger in Romania has declined in certain areas, many Romanians remain susceptible. Increasing programs targeting those who live in rural areas could help reduce hunger in Romania across the board.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

Bordering the Black Sea and just between Bulgaria and Ukraine sits Romania. Although the nation had one of the highest growth rates in the European Union (EU) last year of 3.7 percent, poverty in Romania still remains an issue.

More than 1 million children live in poverty, and over 350,000 live in severe poverty. Poverty in Romania has also contributed to the highest mortality rate in children in the EU.

Currently, UNICEF is working in Romania to ensure children receive the best possible start to life. The organization’s program is designed to combat poverty in Romania by ensuring babies and new mothers receive proper care.

UNICEF is also dedicated to ensuring parents receive proper education in parenting from basics like breastfeeding to providing access to the best quality of education.

However, poverty in Romania is not isolated to the youngest members of society. According to Adrian Oras, Coordinator for the Europe-wide campaign group, Opening Doors, “poverty has worsened due to a high rate of unemployment, a wide gap between rural and urban areas in terms of investment, education and employment opportunities, and a general descending economic trend after the 2008 financial crisis” — all of which have only worsened, since the nation joined the EU in 2007.

Fighting poverty and social inclusion are priorities under the 2020 targets set forth by the EU. In light of these goals, Romania passed an anti-poverty package of 47 measures to combat poverty by focusing on increasing the employment rate, reducing early school leaving rates and scaling-up national health programs.

One of the most important anti-poverty legislative measures, the Romanian Venitul Minim de Incluziune, is currently tabled for debate in the Romanian Parliament, which would serve as a consolidation of three existing means-tested programs. Once this law is approved, it will aim to consolidate the three existing social assistance programs: Heating Benefit, Family Benefit and Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI).

According to a recent series of poverty resolution maps developed by the World Bank, much of the northeast portion of Romania is at risk for poverty, while the southern tier is very much a sporadic mix of “at-risk” areas. These variations make it difficult to create a “one size fits all” approach to eradicating poverty in Romania and necessitates local strategies.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr

romanian_roma_children
Often referred to as travellers or gypsies, the Romani or Roma, people constitute one of the largest minority groups in Romania. However, they are not welcomed. Originating from India, Roma people are vastly discriminated against and face a multitude of disadvantages in education, health, living conditions and job opportunities.

Approximately 90 percent of Roma people live below the poverty line, while almost 33 percent are unemployed. Unfortunately, there has been a purposeful exclusion of the Roma population from mainstream society.

Roma children continually face violations of their basic human rights all across Europe. Additionally, a Roma child is three times more likely to be born into poverty than all other Romanian children.

Health issues that often occur from poor nutrition in early childhood have been exacerbated by the lack of access to treatment and medical clinics. Marginalization and extreme poverty have also hindered the children’s ability to gain equal access to services, including schooling.

Families are not only unable to send children to school due to financial reasons, but also because parents cannot afford clothes or school supplies. There is also growing concern for the stigma and violence the Roma children may endure. For the small percentage of Roma children that do attend school, they face extreme prejudice and segregation. Much of the disapproval stems from the perception that all Roma people are thieves and crooks.

Children and young people make up a large portion of the Roma population, yet their voices are rarely heard. Many European governments overlook the existing policies and legislation that exist to protect minority populations, further reducing their participation in society.

While the Roma in Romania experience discrimination from the people around them, the Roma children bear the greatest burden.

– Leeda Jewayni

Sources: Roma Children, CNN, World Bank
Photo: Caritas

roma_gypsies_inter-schengen_mgration
The Roma people—also vernacularly referred to as “gypsies”—have become a widely discussed topic in the European Union over the past few years. Despite being Europe’s largest, stateless ethnic minority (more than 10 million people), they are still mired in poverty and bereft of opportunity and political representation all across the continent.

With Romania and Bulgaria, two member states containing a considerably large Roma population, becoming party of the Schengen Area this year, some Western European politicians are deploying xenophobic rhetoric to their own advantages. Much of this xenophobia is targeting Romanian Roma immigrants.

Comprising somewhere between 5-10% of Romania’s total population, an estimated 80% of Romanian Roma population lives in poverty. With the rise of the far-right across Europe, the community has fallen target to racial discrimination and violent abuses; an extremist organization in Romania even suggested that Roma women should be sterilized.

The socio-economic tribulations that grip the Romanian Roma community stem from centuries of segregation and prejudice. Furthermore, the widespread prejudice to view them as unwilling to work and as free riders also contribute to the tension between the majority society and the Roma community.

In many parts of Europe—Western and Eastern alike—Roma people live in segregated communities with inadequate access to water and electricity. They are also at constant risk of forced eviction and hostility from surrounding majority population. The latter of which often manifests itself violently. In many cases, they are relocated to suburban landfills with no access to running water or electricity. With sometimes more than 13 people living in a single room, their hygienic wellbeing is greatly at risk. To make matters worse, being placed in remote locations also deprive the children of the opportunity to attend school since often times they are outside of school bus routes.

In 2012, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights conducted a survey whose findings were truly shocking for a continent that boasts some of the highest human development indexes in the world. In Romania alone, nearly a quarter of Roma children aged 7 to 15 do not attend school and nearly a third of respondents aged 20 to 64 are unemployed, in contrast to the average of 11% among the country’s non-roma population.

Since Romania has at last joined the Schengen Area and its people have finally received full rights as citizens of the EU, many politicians in more prosperous member states such as the UK have found the anti-immigrant discourse to be a convenient tool in winning over public opinion. Unfortunately, unless the EU soon finds measures to solve the millennium-old prejudice towards the community, the Roma will inevitably be exploited as the political bête noire within the politics of inter-Schengen migration.

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: Amnesty International, Express, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Romania-Insider, SPIEGEL Online International
Photo: March Inbetween

romania_poverty.jpg
Romania, the small country in southeastern Europe, has struggled with poverty throughout its history.  The traditionally agricultural country has floundered since ceasing to be a communist state in 1989.  Poverty is most pronounced in rural areas, which are home to 44% of Romania’s population.

Low agricultural production is a large problem for the rural poor.  Additionally, there are few opportunities for formal employment or higher education outside of urban areas of Romania. Remote mountainous areas receive little support from the government, and suffer from a lack of social services, infrastructure, sanitation and opportunity.

Poor Romanians often leave in search of better opportunities overseas, sometimes at rates of hundreds of thousands per year.  The earnings sent home by these emigrants have made up as much as 6% of Romania’s GDP.  While poverty is a clear and large scale problem in Romania, the government has no formal policy to help raise the employment rate or improve conditions in rural areas.  In fact, there is a marked absence of government initiatives to reduce poverty.

One ethnic group in particular is plagued by poverty, illiteracy, squalid living conditions as well as government discrimination and social persecution.  The Romani people, known negatively around Europe as ‘gypsies’, were held as slaves around Europe until the mid-eighteen hundreds.  They were exterminated by the Nazis on a large scale, and continue to be mistreated around Europe.  Romania is home to as many as two million Roma people, and they are five times as likely as other groups to live in poverty.

Frequently, Roma, like other Romanians, leave to find work and better fortunes in more affluent parts of Europe.  Many Europeans discriminate against the Romani, however, and an influx of Roma people in France has contributed to the recreation of racist, fascist groups from the 1940s.

Romani people often live in segregated neighborhoods, or in their own villages entirely.  One such village, in a rural region of Romania, is generally ignored by the authorities and does not even appear on maps despite its population of over 500 people.  The citizens of Ponorata live without electricity, in handmade wooden homes and frequently in conditions that have been described as ‘medieval’.  Illiteracy and unemployment are rampant.

The plight of Ponorata is a symptom of a wider problem in rural Romania, which is the lack of initiative taken by the government to solve the poverty of these areas. While some non-governmental organizations run schools and health centers, there is a desperate need for a more widespread and coordinated strategy to improve the quality of life of Romanians, especially the Roma.

Abigail Hanson

Sources: Daily Mail, Rural Poverty Portal, Euractiv

Countries with High Rates of Child Poverty
3. Romania

After the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Romania struggled economically. Farmers were especially vulnerable, and the impact of the USSR’s collapse is evident today in the status of Romania’s children. Children in rural areas are exceptionally poor, often not receiving the nutrition needed to maintain good health. This results in many physical problems that are left untreated. Many children in rural areas are also deprived of an education.

2. The United States
Yes, you read that correctly. The United States is second place among the developed countries of the world in the percentage of children below the poverty line. This shocking number is due to the stark income equality in America. UNICEF’s research reveals that American children are more likely to fall below the poverty line than children in any other developed country due to the growing wealth gap in the United States.

1. Bulgaria
The Southern European nation of Bulgaria is the developed nation with the highest child poverty rate in the world. Plagued by increasingly low wages and high utility prices, the children of Bulgaria are suffering in families that can no longer afford to put food on the table. The unemployment rate reached 10% in the last year, inciting a wave of protests that threaten the stability of the country. Several desperate Bulgarians, unable to feed their families, have resorted to self-immolation in dramatic protest to get the government to implement changes.

– Josh Forgét

Source: The World Bank, The Washington Post, The Economist
Photo: Press TV

libraries2_opt
As children, our perception of libraries was clouded by the old librarian sitting at the front desk ‘shh-ing’ everyone as they walked past. While American libraries retain their importance but may have lost their romantic allure, their reputation and modern use is only just beginning in developing countries.

With 73% of the world’s 320,000 public libraries in developing countries, organizations such as Beyond Access are highlighting the extensive potential public libraries can provide to governments who are trying to work on development throughout their countries. Libraries act as a central hub for multiple resources, one of the most important being free access to the internet.

For countries with heavy agricultural areas, farmers are able to research and apply for subsidies, such as farmers in Romania were able to do last year with the help of the 400 public libraries in Romania. 17,000 farmers applied for EU subsidies and were able to bring $27.1 million back into their communities.

The most attractive quality about libraries is their simplicity. They are an age old institution, directly tied to the government. Their operations are more or less the same from country to country. Funding is minimal; computers, basic stationery, office supplies, and training for staff. The return however is limitless.

EIFL, one of the dozen or so partners of Beyond Access, has built a massive group of 39 programs and public libraries. Their libraries serve one of five public interests including agriculture, employment and livelihood, culture and education, youth and at risk children, and health. For example, The Berd Public Library in Berd, Armenia has introduced organic farming practices to 9,000 villagers. The library also hosts lectures and provides journals and books on effective agricultural practices as well as opening up new markets online for farmers to sell their produce.

With startup companies around the world focusing on harnessing technology to bring villages and farming societies out of poverty, the institution of the library and the sense of belonging it brings to communities should not be forgotten. Most public libraries in developing countries can survive on yearly grants between $5,000-$20,000. They provide a constant flow of information as well as an opportunity for employment for the staff. By illustrating the hundreds of success stories in countries like Ghana, Serbia, Nepal, and Uganda, Beyond Access hopes to recruit more donors and policymakers to take advantage of one of history’s longest standing institutions when implementing programs.

– Deena Dulgerian
Source: The Guardian