Roma vendors and media criticism

Big Life group chief executive Fay Selvan defends Roma right to be self-employed and sell The Big Issue in the North

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This week a number of articles in national newspapers have claimed that Roma people are selling The Big Issue in the North to take advantage of a loophole in the tax system which allows them to claim benefits they wouldn’t otherwise be entitled to.

Fay Selvan, chief executive of The Big Life group, which owns The Big Issue in the North, defends the right of Roma, who have few other means of earning an income, to sell the magazine.

“As members of the EU and A2 nationals Romanian Roma’s work opportunities in the UK are limited to certain highly skilled jobs, seasonal agricultural work or being self-employed,” said Selvan.

Deprived communities

“Anyone who is self employed is entitled to certain benefits. Selling The Big Issue in the North is genuine self-employment and we would defend anyone’s right to claim a benefit if they are legally entitled to it, regardless of their race.“

Roma are described by Amnesty International as among the most deprived communities in Europe. In many countries they suffer widespread discrimination and are denied their rights to housing, employment, healthcare and education. Roma
communities are often subject to forced evictions, racist attacks and police ill-treatment.

“In our experience, the Roma are a hardworking community who want to create better lives for themselves and their families,” Selvan added. “When they come to The Big Issue in the North they have few ways of earning an income and therefore
securing or maintaining a roof over their and their families’ heads.”

Regardless of race

The same press articles claim that homeless and unemployed UK nationals are not being supported by The Big Issue in the North.

Selvan said: “This is not the case. We encourage anyone who needs support and wants an opportunity to earn an income by selling The Big Issue in the North to approach us. The Big Issue in the North will support anyone vulnerable or in need, regardless of their race or ethnicity.”

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