- Estimated Gypsy population: 30,000 (excluding Travelers). The territory of present-day Belgium saw its first Gypsies possibly as early as 1400, but certainly in 1419 in Antwerp and again in 1420, with the arrival in Brussels of Duke Andrew of Little Egypt. In 1421 they came to Bruges. Duke Andrew said he and his followers had been expelled from their homes by the Turks, and he was given money and food. Later opinion turned against these "pilgrims." In 1504 the bailiff of Rouen was told by King Louis XII of France to chase any "Egyptians" across the frontiers and out of the country. A period likely followed when very few Gypsies were in the country. Decrees in 1856 and 1900 said that foreign nomads should not be included in the population registers. In 1872 they were to be stopped from entering the country and those already there, expelled. In 1933 the Foreigners Police was set up, and one of its tasks was to issue special passes for nomads. In 1941 the occupying German forces withdrew these passes and introduced the nomad's card (zigeunerkaart), which was not abolished until 1975.At the outbreak of World War II perhaps only 20 extended families were living permanently in Belgium, together with others who had been trapped there by the outbreak of war. Nomadic Gypsies were arrested under the orders of the Germans from October 1943 in both Belgium and northern France, which was administered from Brussels. The encampments were surrounded and everyone taken. No serious effort was made to seek out house-dwelling Gypsies. The nomads were held in local prisons and gradually transferred to Malines. On 15 January 1944, a party of 351 Romanies of mixed nationality was handed one piece of bread and loaded into cattle trucks for the journey to Auschwitz. Some 300 died or were killed in that camp. The remainder were transferred to other camps, and 12 of these survived until the end of the war. There are four groups:1. Manouche and Sinti who have traveled for several centuries in Belgium, France, and Germany2. Vlah Roma who came to western Europe from Romania in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th3. Roma who came from eastern Europe (especially Yugoslavia) after 19454. Some 7,000 non-Romany Travelers (known as Woonwagenbe-woners or Voyageurs), some of whom speak BargoensMany Romanies of the second and third groups still travel, whereas the Manouche, Sinti, and Travelers mostly live on caravan sites. Many are moving into houses. In Flanders and Brussels, some 30 official camping sites are available for about 400 families. It is estimated that 50 more permanent or transit sites are needed for a similar number who park their caravans on private sites, usually without planning permission. In Wallonia, a few illegal sites are tolerated; only one could be regarded as more or less official. Most of the nomads live from recycling or house-to-house sales of craftwork.There has been no long-term Gypsy organization in Belgium, although individual lawyers and others have helped with casework. The Vlaams Centrum Woonwagenwerk was founded in 1977 but the Association des Roms de Belgique no longer functions. Romano Dzuvdipe and Opre Roma are two recently established Romany organizations, representing more than 70 percent of the Gypsy community in Belgium, with more than 20,000 members. Ijmer Kajtazi Wolf Bruggen is the chair of both organizations. In February 2004 the central government recognized the existence of house-dwelling Roma for the first time, inviting their representatives to the inaugural meeting of Belgian Intercultural Dialogue.
Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . Donald Kenrick.