Romania: what fuels anger towards Sri Lankan bakers?

Fierce protests with calls to stop the "migrant influx" broke out in the Romanian village of Ditró/Ditrău last week after a local bread factory hired two bakers from Sri Lanka. Allegations have also been made against the company: local employees had to quit their jobs at the factory due to the poor pay. The villagers aren't the only ones at fault, the regional press concurs.

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Krónika (RO) /

Change hurts

One is hardly qualified to assess this conflict from a desk in the big city, Krónika believes:

“This year Romania needs 30,000 guest workers from outside the EU to alleviate the dramatic consequences of the emigration of several million people. Without bakers there will be no bread baked on site in Ditró. It is also a fact that if many workers from Sri Lanka, Indonesia or - absurdly - from Galați [a city in south-eastern Romania], which is also terribly distant, take the place of the emigrants, Ditró will change somewhat. This situation seems very easy to understand in the eyes of an observer from [the city], but in Ditró it can be painfully complicated.”

Baricada (RO) /

It's the economy, stupid!

Commentator Maria Cernat agrees in Baricada that an economic problem has been transformed into one about race:

“People think: they're not white, they're dangerous, they will attack us. But the problem is much more that we are all competing with each other to work for the lowest salary! Here, a problem caused by grave economic inequality - the fact that there is unimaginable poverty in parts of the world - is being discussed in terms of race. ... The protests and unrest are completely legitimate. The problem is that the protesters aren't expressing themselves correctly, with the result that the villagers have triggered a wave of indignation. Moralists and human rights activists will denounce their conduct while the employers are declared victims of an intolerant community!”

Maszol (RO) /

Sad and embarrassing - but not malicious

Writing in Maszol, columnist Attila Kustán Magyari argues that we should show more understanding for those who have reservations about foreigners:

“I am clearly among those who consider the events in Ditrău sad and embarrassing. But I don't want to join the chorus of those who simply dismiss it by calling their compatriots stupid or malicious. ... Perhaps the problem should be tackled in such a way that while we don't give up our principles, we do try to understand the reasoning of those who are afraid or would even opt to use violence. ... The two bakers must be defended, and it would be nice if they could remain in Ditrău. Societies cannot remain closed forever - even if, as I also believe, the capital-driven global economy causes considerable problems.” (RO) /

The result of panic-mongering in the media

The Catholic website laments the lack of openness to those who are different in a polarised society:

“If you look at the statements in the press and on social networks it becomes clear that, as a result of the media war against the 'threat of migrants', society seems to lose not just its sense of reality but also the ability and willingness to engage in dialogue: there are people who literally start trembling when someone whose culture, religion, skin colour or thinking is different comes near them. ... Others stigmatise - to put it mildly - those who are afraid of what is foreign to them. ... And both groups no longer realize that they are only increasing the tension instead of seeking a solution.”