Children in ghettoes

The first few years of a child life can be economically productive for the family if the child is used for begging. As soon as he/she will not be good for or able to beg they will start picking or sorting garbage.

 Some of the children will be trained to steal, some others will make money washing windshields or hassling people for money. Some will do all these things. A good number of them will do these “jobs” abroad (Western Europe) as the economic gains are much better than in their much poorer countries (Eastern Europe and the Balkans).



Children and garbage – Craiova- Drumul Apelor – 2013 

A few of them will be trafficked and another few will sell themselves for sex.  As they will turn into teenagers a percentage of them will end up involved in criminal activities[1] and prostitution. These teenage years are very productive for the gangs as teenagers can not be prosecuted. Addiction to drugs, alcohol or other substances that can provide an artificial escape (such as glue, paint-thinner etc) is already high in most of the ghettoes and increasing. Most of these children and teenagers will end up functional illiterates. In their overwhelming majority they will drop out of school before reaching their 8th grade. A significant percentage will never go to school or give up on school very early. 

 As they turn to youth a good number of them will end up in prison mostly due to theft in value of under 1000 Euros. They will receive in average sentences much longer than people who can afford good lawyers and steal millions. Prison is not only a punishment for people in the ghettoes -sometimes is a good alternative: a way to kick addiction, find shelter during cold winters, learn new skills,” toughen up” and build networks that can be very “productive” after their release. 

The probability to return to prison is extremely high in the case of the ghettoes – around 90% according to a Romanian expert working for the Romanian National Agency for Prisons. 

Most of the children from the ghettoes will end up as adults with a very poor education and extremely limited chances to find employment that will pay enough to give them the opportunity to get out of the ghettoes.  On top of this involvement in criminal activities pays much better than any job they could possibly get considering their skills and formal education. It will also not require the discipline and responsibilities of a normal job. 

Risks associated to criminal activities tend to be very much downplayed as the focus in the ghettoes tends to be on the very few who “made it” and became rich due to their criminal endeavors. 

The majority of the children from ghettoes that become adults will have to struggle with abject poverty, addiction, unemployment, poor health and periodical imprisonment. Some of those who will manage to go abroad will have to deal with the significant pressure and risks due to the fact that the money needed for travelling are from loan-sharks. 

Women will be abused and struggle most of their lives. The social fabric in the worst ghettoes is disappearing or is already inexistent as a good number of families are mono-parental –the mothers have children with different partners with whom have rather short relationships. Fathers tend to assume little or no responsibilities towards their children. The alternatives for women are even fewer than those for men when it comes to employment – a good number will have to work in awful toxic conditions related to garbage collection and recycling, steal, prostitute themselves or sell drugs. 

Violence – especially domestic violence is not reported in the ghettoes. Reporting violence makes no sense and leads to serious economic loses. People in the ghettoes usually live there illegally and in conditions that are considered inappropriate for children. Reporting domestic violence can lead to a forced removal of children from their parents due to child protection issues. In a good number of cases children are vital for the support of the family as they receive allocations or/and produce money by begging, stealing, selling drugs or helping their parents to collect and sort garbage. It is very rare that the violent male responsible for the violence will be sent to prison, it is rather more likely he will receive a fine. The women risk to be severely beaten up when the male returns home, having to come-up with the money to pay the fine and to be left alone. The children will be relocated to institutionalized care where in most of the cases they have problems to adapt. 

For the ghettoes abroad there is even less incentive to report cases of domestic violence as that will bring the attention of the police to the often-illegal settlement and can lead to deportation and an abrupt end to what is most often a much better life than in their countries of origins. 

In the ghettoes violence (other than domestic violence) is rife and rarely (if ever reported).  Break-ins and fights in the ghettoes are common occurrences. Arsons and serious damages to one property happen often. As these types of incidents take place mostly among rivaling gang members they remain unreported to the police. State policing and security in the ghettoes is simply non-existent – the police may act to prevent violence outside the ghetto but only extraordinary intervene within the ghettoes. 

Gangs are those that ensure “protection” in the ghettoes. Affiliation to a gang brings safety, jobs and sometimes power. 

The street dealers (most of them drug addicts, women or teenagers) are taking significant risks. They are threaten, abused, robed and beaten-up by the much powerful overlords that intimidate them into submission and try to prevent snitching to the police, by corrupted policemen and by addicts in urgent need for their shot. Such incidents can not be reported either. 

Most of the people in the ghettoes are registered as living in some other places. There are sometimes 20 – 30 people that are registered on the same address. Without a permanent address one can not have a permanent ID which in turn results to serious problems into accessing welfare and social services. 

In the case of urban ghettoes (apartment buildings) in most of the cases people do not pay utilities. The way they avoid paying utilities and avoiding any type of responsibilities is by repeatedly selling the same flat between members of the same family. 10 -15 fictitious sales makes impossible for the local authorities to determine in time who is the owner and has the responsibility for paying the bills. Before the elections the debts are often waived off as the mayors want to ensure the votes in the ghettoes – there is a much higher concentration of voters in the ghettoes than anywhere else. 

The ghettoes are paradoxically profitable for the local administrations. Garbage collection services for instance happen much less often than they are supposed and paid to happen. The same happens with lots of other social services – the money resulted can be used to win re-elections or make people rich especially thise with the right political connections. 

There is an advantage in not having ID papers especially for people in the ghettoes that live from small criminality. Lack of ID papers can sometimes avoid prosecution. 

One of the main sources of income for many ghettoes remains begging. 

Aggressively tackling begging is a disastrous approach as long as it is done without measures that can offer acceptable alternatives to those begging. Interdiction to beg cuts drastically the income of a family and forces it to find other ways to survive. Collecting and sorting garbage for recycling is an alternative for some but for most beggars and their families that will be in the situation they are unable to beg they will switch to theft and robbery. The overall societal costs become in this way much higher than in the case of begging. 

Abject poverty, drug abuse, prostitution, lack of education, poorly designed or discriminatory social services, poor nutrition, toxic environment, inadequate housing, violence are some of the basic communalities of these ghettoes.

[1] selling drugs, illegal cigarettes, stolen goods ; participate in break-ins or robberies, pick-pocketing, stealing from shops and supermarkets

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