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Finland's Roma Discuss Situation of Romanian Beggars

Finland's Roma minority has been closely watching the influx of Romanian beggars into Finland's cities. They hope that the EU will help improve the welfare of Roma beggars in their home country. The chairman of the Roma Forum, Tino Varjola, says giving beggars money on the streets is not the answer. International Roma day was celebrated on Tuesday in Tampere. The festivities have been tradition since the early 1990s, and aim at increasing understanding about Europe's largest ethnic minority. The arrival of Roma beggars in Finland has drawn much attention over the past year. Their appearance is indicative of the hardship Roma face particularly in old Soviet bloc countries. In these formerly socialist states discrimination against Roma is systematic. Begging is anathema to Finland's Roma community, but they say it's upsetting to see fellow Roma destitute in the streets. "We can't even imagine what it's like to live without human dignity and completely outside of society," says Satu Blomerus from the Finnish National Board of Education. Giving Money Not the Answer

Varjola, who's the new head of the Finnish Roma Forum, says he's well aware of the need the beggars are in. His personal opinion, however, is that people should not give money to the beggars. He says this kind of charity feeds a vicious cycle.

"If money is given to beggars here, it quickly encourages the begging process," says Varjola.

Varjola would rather see the EU step up to the plate on the issue, and exert influence over its member state Romania. He believes the EU should care for its citizens at least enough so that they don't have to travel around the EU begging.

Humane treatment is what Varjola wants for the beggars already in Finland. He says there are other ways to help them than giving them a few coins.

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