‘Modern-Day Fagins’, ‘Gaudy Mansions’ and ‘Increasing Numbers’: Narratives on Roma Migrants in the Build-Up to the British EU Referendum

Daniele Viktor Leggio

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The increase in migration flows within and into Europe has been accompanied by a growing policy focus on migration management. As in any policy debate, actors mobilise both factual claims and assumptions about the problems to be tackled and the population groups involved, in turn fashioning narratives that shape concrete policies. The article focuses on the policy narratives that developed in the UK around the migration of Roma groups between 2009 and 2014. I will show how the mobilisation of narratives on the criminal nature of Roma migration and about a sudden influx of Roma matched stereotypical images about the ‘Gypsies’. This made both narratives convincing as they fitted expectations about the Roma, to the point that their weak factual basis was ignored. This, in turn, contributed to refocusing the UK debate on migration from the need to reform the benefit system, to the need to reduce migration overall and eventually challenging the EU principle of freedom of movement. I will highlight the role of scholarly research in contributing to the development of policy narratives, calling for scholars to avoid sensationalising our findings, even if this is seen as an attempt to gain support for inclusive migration policies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConstructing Roma Migrants: European Narratives and Local Governance
EditorsTina Magazzini, Stefano Piemontese
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer Nature
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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