Roma people burning cables to extract copper. Photo: Steven Wassenaar
Revealed: scandal of Roma people forced to scavenge toxic e-waste
12th October, 2010
In the wake of President Sarkozy's crackdown on the Roma people, an Ecologist investigation uncovers how poverty and discrimination are forcing persecuted communities to scratch a living recycling France's growing mountain of e-waste - potentially threatening health and raising questions over the effectiveness of waste policies
‘It’s a city within a city,’ says a man who goes by the name of JP. ‘They’ll find a pair of old shoes on the street and resell them here for five euros. The kids will offer to fetch you water, but it'll cost you fifty cents. Everyone’s in business!’
In a vast secluded parking lot on the outskirts of Paris, about 150 Roma people from countries such as Romania and Bulgaria have set up camp, erecting shacks of discarded planks and plastic sheets. It’s mid-day and the women are outdoors cooking meats and stews on open stoves carved out of metal drums, or from charred shopping carts. The radio of a parked van plays the soulful rhythm of gypsy music.
A few of the older kids have made a game of riding municipal waste bins down a paved road leading into the encampment. The bins are empty. Instead the trash – empty water bottles, rotten mattresses, perished white goods, rubber tires and vast nests of tangled cables – are stockpiled in heaps throughout the site, amassing in ditches and swallowing up the surrounding vegetation. This abundance of waste is in fact the very engine of what JP calls a city; the source of a grubby, invisible, yet bustling...
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