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Monday, 18 June, 2001, 23:59 GMT 00:59 UK
Soros scholarships for gypsies
International financier and philanthropist George Soros
Mr Soros wants to help educate Roma communities
By Ray Furlong

The billionaire financier George Soros has announced a new programme to give new university scholarships to hundreds of Roma people, also known as gypsies, across eastern Europe.

Speaking in the Slovak capital Bratislava, Mr Soros said most of the money had come from gold looted by the Nazis during World War II and held by the Allies since then.

Hundreds of thousands of gypsies were killed by Hitler's Nazis during the Holocaust.

Children at a Nazi internment concentration camp
Hundreds of thousands of gypsies were murdered in Nazi camps

Mr Soros's own Open Society fund is providing the rest of the money which will go to Roma university students from seven former communist countries - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia.

In these countries, the communities of Roma suffer from a chronic lack of education.

Often they do not even complete basic schooling.

Added to other problems such as squalid living conditions and mass unemployment, this leaves them in a vicious circle of social exclusion.

The aim of this project is to break the circle.

Tuition fees

One of Mr Soros's aides said his organisation hoped the scholarships would be the beginning of a new Roma elite.

The organisers believe that about 500 Roma will be eligible for grants of $500 to $1,000 each from the start of the next academic year.

The money will cover tuition and exam fees and partial living expenses.

As well as having been accepted at a university, candidates for the stipend will have to show they take an active interest in Roma issues.

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10 Jun 01 | Media reports
Gypsies ask IBM for Holocaust reparation
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