Matteo Bastianelli, The Rom Ghetto, from PRIVATE 51 – Global Report 2, pp. 78-81[A]ccording to data provided by various Rom associations, on the basis of the last census, approximately 150 thousand people belonging to that race live in Croatia. However, official fonts in the Zagreb government, estimate a mere 12-18 thousand Rom citizens.
The cause for such a marked numerical discrepancy is explained in a memo by the Balkans Observatory: «it is more than likely that many do not openly declare to being Rom for fear of latent racial discrimination – quite explicit at times – and of the strong prejudice that a large number of Croatian nationals have against them». Such is the tendency, which has now become common practice so as to hide their true identity, when classifying themselves Croatian, whether of Catholic, Bosnian, or Muslim religion.
Two Rom villages, Trnovec and Podturen, where building using EU aid was finished in 2008, are situated in the Croatian hinterland in the region of Varazdin and Međimurje, near the city of Čakovec, 100 kilometers from Zagreb. Built in a vast rural area, their centers are inhabited exclusively by Rom. Nobody ever goes there, except for the police. There is no contact with the nearby population as it is difficult for people to change their preconceived ideas regarding the Rom.
Around 5.500 Rom children and teenagers, between the ages of 8 and 20, are not included in the education system in Croatia and Social Services are limited to the chosen few who are included in the EU aid scheme. Therefore, the categorical imperative is to simply overcome the day-to-day difficulties, the internal hostilities that characterize relationships which are often violent among the young Rom, the segregation imposed by the outside world and even from the European Union grants which funded the construction of the large brick housing-blocks for which many members of the Rom community declared to be opposed to, knowing full-well that the initiative would have made them even more isolated.