Gypsies and Caravan Dwellers in the Netherlands - Orientation

Identification. Gypsies and caravan dwellers, often seen by the Dutch population as members of one and the same group, have been in an isolated position since the nineteenth century. They are distinct from the general population in terms of their way of life and housing (a caravan). The most important difference between the two groups is that most caravan dwellers are indigenous Dutch, whereas Gypsies came from elsewhere. For different reasons both groups chose a mobile life-style during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Dutch Gypsies can be divided into Sinti (82 percent) and Roma (18 percent). The Sinti, coming from Germany, France, and Belgium, entered the Netherlands in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Roma (mostly Lowara) arrived around 1900 from Romania and Hungary. They left these countries about 1860 and before coming to the Netherlands first traveled through Germany, France, and Scandinavia. Both groups settled more or less permanently and obtained Dutch citizenship. Apart from these Dutch Gypsies we can distinguish the so-called foreign Gypsies, who left Eastern Europe from 1960 on and stayed for some time in Italy and France. From there small groups annually roamed throughout Western Europe, also visiting the Netherlands. Because they were considered unwanted aliens everywhere, the Dutch government decided in 1978 to legalize a limited number.

Demography. There are about 800 foreign Gypsies living in the Netherlands. The number of Dutch Gypsies is estimated at 2,700, 90 percent of whom live on caravan sites. The total number of caravan dwellers is about 20,000.

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