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Gypsies are an ethnic group, properly known as 'Romani' or 'Roma', who are believed to have migrated to Europe from present day Rajasthan [1] in India over 1000 years ago due to Islamic Invasions.[2] They are most noted for their nomadic culture; their population is approximately 15 million,[3] although, due to the above fact, this is very difficult to measure accurately. The term Gypsy (alt. sp. Gipsy) comes from an ancient belief that the Roma were outcasts from Egypt.

Persecution of Gypsies

Gypsy people have long suffered from prejudice and discrimination; one of the first concrete examples would be the laws passed in Moldavia and Wallachia which stated that any Romani on those countries' soil would automatically become a slave.

Discriminatory laws were passed in many other countries as well; in Western Europe during the 15th century Ottoman invasion, in Argentina in 1880, and even the USA in 1885 passed laws restricting Gypsy immigration.[4] Forced assimilation, and the abduction of children, was also practiced, in countries such as Norway, where 1500 Romani children were removed by the state from their parents[5] (under the, albeit later, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, such actions are classified as attempted genocide).

Romani also suffered a great deal under the Holocaust; approximately 1,000,000[6] of them were killed during it, a sizable fraction, in a period known as the 'Porajmos'. In the Bohemia region, this mass murder was so thorough that their culture and language became extinct there.

In the present day, they are often accused of pickpocketing and theft (it was such accusations, made in 1905, that precipitated the Porajmos[7]); this has led to persecution and other human rights abuses.[8][9]

Some work has been carried out, however, to encourage integration; in the UK, under the Human Rights Act 1998, for example, the subsidized purchase of greenfield sites is being discussed, to give Romani and other Travellers accommodation.


  1. Donald Kenrick. Historical Dictionary of the Gypsies (Romanies). Scarecrow Press
  7. Alfred Dillmann. Zigeuner-Buch. Munich: Wildsche (1905)