One tried to pick my pocket in Rome. My girlfriend at the time caught her, snatched her hand, and growled at her: "I'll break it!" The gypsy, and her chorus of howling distractors, fled...
The romani are often discriminated against, IMO, because their historic choice of occupation, which has been crime. Of course, that alone doesn't cause discrimination. Look at the Jews in Europe. For centuries they were legitimate businessmen, bankers, doctors and so on. Yet still, when a demagogue needed a scapegoat, they were singled out.
Sorry I can't be of more help, beergal. Good luck on the thesis, and share some of the interesting tidbits you find with us...
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"Life is not measured in the number of breaths we take, but by the places that take our breath away..."