Owners agree to shut down Roma camp

A temporary Roma camp in a stone quarry on the outskirts of Oslo is set to be dismantled on Friday after the two owners of the land reached an agreement to close the controversial site.

Owners agree to shut down Roma camp
Roma travellers start packing up to leave the Årvoll site on Thursday evening (Photo: Vegard Grøtt/Scanpix)

Many of the people staying at the Årvoll site packed up their belongings and left on Thursday evening after Vanessa Quintavalle, the landowner who had championed their cause, agreed to break up the camp under pressure from the chairman of the board of the property firm where she works.

Albert Kr. Hæhre, the chairman of Årvoll Eiendom, wrote a letter to Quintavalle on Thursday informing her that the company would take over the handling of the situation unless a plan for the closure of the camp was presented by 10am on Friday.

Steiner Arnesen, the Labour Party head of the Bjerke district council, said Quintavalle was likely faced on Thursday with the harsh reality of her precarious employment situation.  

“It seems the chairman, Hæhre, let her know how things should play out if she was to avoid losing her job. That’s the impression I’ve got,” said Arnesen.

Hæhre and Quintavalle met for several hours on Thursday evening to discussion the situation, her lawyer said.

The camp became a national focal point for tensions surrounding the country’s Roma population after Quintavalle invited the group to the site when they were asked to leave a makeshift camp outside a city church.

By Thursday district officials found that the number of tents had risen to 27, with around 30 cars parked in the area.

Concerned neighbours sent a letter to Hæhre in which they threatened to press charges if the camp was not shut down within three days, newspaper VG reported on Thursday.

“We don’t wish the Roma people any harm, but a small neighbourhood cannot solve a national problem alone,” said Hege Almerud, a resident who has launched a Facebook group on behalf of neighbours opposed to the camp.

Residents have also called the police to ask them to stop people driving through the area.

"We’re worn out, and all of this runs counter to people’s sense of justice. We’re the ones stuck in the mess between the camp, the people who are calling us racists, and the racists who are spoiling for a fight at the camp,” said Almerud.

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Roma beggars not run by crime groups: report

There is no evidence that Romanian beggars in northern Europe are managed by organised crime groups, according to a new report from Norwegian social research foundation Fafo.

Roma beggars not run by crime groups: report
Gina Ionescu, a Roma woman, begging in Oslo in 2013. Photo: Marte Christensen/NTB Scanpix
Fafo interviewed 1,269 homeless Romanians in Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen last summer without finding any signs of criminal third parties. 
“We’re very certain that the beggars are not in any way part of organised crime,” Ann Britt Druve, one of the researchers behind the study. “They know each other and they travel in family networks and community networks. It’s not being organised by any third party.” 
As well as interviewing homeless Romanians on the streets with a set questionnaire, Fafo also arranged in-depth qualitative interviews, and visited Romania to carry out field surveys. 
“We don’t think that all of them would have been able to deceive us to such an extent,” Druve said. 
The Romanians, most of whom were ethnic Roma, normally travelled to Scandinavia in minibuses, often borrowing the money to finance their journey, either from family or from the minibus drivers. 
They typically earned around 200 Norwegian kroner each day, saving about half of that to send home to Romania. 
“Their families in Romania are extremely poor so this can make a lot of difference,” she said. 
It was not, however, enough money to attract the interest of organised crime groups, she believed. 
“This is not enough for a criminal network. It’s not worth the effort.” 
Drive started the interviews in Oslo early last summmer, before moving on to Stockholm, and finishing in Copenhagen in the autumn.