Hundreds of villagers of Ditrau commune in Harghita county, Romania, have protested in front of the town hall because a bread factory in the locality had hired two employees from Sri Lank. The locals said they fear ‘a wave of refugees might come in their commune to impose their culture and jeopardize the safety of the villagers.’
Two landlords who accommodated the two Sri Lankan workers had even received threats from the villagers, so the owners of the bread company decided to relocate the foreign workers to another locality, Gheorghieni.
Piumal, aged 22 and Amahinda, aged 49 are bakers and have been hired legally through a recruiting company at the largest bread factory in Gheorghieni region.
The owners of the bread plant in Ditrau say they wanted to hire locals for the bakers positions, but they found no one willing, so they decided to look for labour force abroad.
The owners also say the two Sri Lankan bakers have quickly learnt the production process and that they are serious, hard-working and appreciated. The employers announced that in maximum one month five more foreign workers will be employed, four from Nepal and one from Sri Lanka, as the factory needs skilled workers for it is expanding with EU funds.
“I would like to tell the people we are not in Middle Ages anymore. We are in 2020 and I think we should be kinder and more sympathetic. I cannot understand the anti-human behaviour that the locals prove and what exactly have against these people from Sri Lanka. They are human just like us, good people who want to earn a decent living. They earn 60 dollars in Sri Lanka, here in Romania the minimum wage means a lot of money for them and they came in order to support their families and not to harm anyone here,” said one of the owners,” Kollo Katalin.
On the other hand, locals seem to be resolute on their stances, and they are even endorsed by the Catholic priest of the community. The overwhelming majority of the villagers are Magyars (Szeklers) of Catholic religion.
“Two are coming today, tomorrow they will be seven and more and after that what? They will need schools, church. We want us to live here, to stay here, Szeklers, Romanians, the ones who are already living here”, said the priest.
The village mayor, Puskás Elemé has called for calm, arguing this situation occurred because people had been instigated. “People are concerned about what they see in mass media, that migrants are coming and they fear migrants will rob them and attack them (…) I don’t know how to solve that, we’ll talk to the owners of the factory to deal with this”, the mayor said.
On the other hand, the mayor revealed that this conflict might have started as there is an older conflict between the villagers and the bread factory owners, prior to the Sri Lankan workers’ arrival.
The National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) president Csaba Asztalos considers that the case in Ditrau is a proof, an effect of the communication in the region and at the EU level on an anti-immigration speech in the past years.
“The Magyar community in Transylvania is connected to the regional and Hungarian media, where we know very well the anti-immigration speech is a constant communication element. Therefore, maybe the source of fear in Ditrau, and not only there, can be also explained through the global anti-immigration speech”, Csaba Asztalos argued.
He added that the speech of the Ditrau villagers “looks exactly like” the anti-immigration speech in the Western EU countries: ‘we want to keep our culture, religion, we don’t need foreign workers’, etc.
In his turn, the Roman-Catholic Archbishop of Alba Iulia, Jakubinyi György, has slammed the attitude of local priest Bírók Károly, stating he “had got involved in a conflict that exceeds his powers”. The Archbishop also underlined that the attitude of the priest of Ditrau “is not similar to the Archdiocese’s stance”.