They reject our right to own property, or uphold theirs to take it from us. Inside their temporary homes all is clean, but the filth is flung away carelessly to pollute our world. They recognise neither nationality, nor borders, nor income tax. They have no allegiance or obligation but to themselves. Christianity and Islam have left them untouched. They are secretive and inward looking, maintaining a strong insider-outsider barrier. Above all, they make people fear; fear damage and loss and theft, fear implied violence, fear the hedgerows fouled with human scat and fear all the certainties of our civilisation being scorned.
The Nazis tried to eradicate them, with 12,000 being slaughtered in the pits of Babi Yar and thousands more in the extermination camps, yet they've recovered to a European population of about 16m, spread from Ireland to Greece.
Yet at base they're people like us. They value family and kinship, love their children and maintain a strong cultural identity. They have their own set of rules. And these things have been enough to sustain them for centuries, enough to prevent them from integrating, from becoming invisible, however hostile the alternative.
The Guardian reports today on how the EU is turning a blind eye to the official harassment and 'persecution' of Roma across Europe, as these unwanted scavengers are driven from country to country, and asks why EU governments aren't applying the Human Rights Charter to protect them.
The answer is transparently clear; the Roma are self-declared outlaws, or scoff-laws, and for as long as they reject our tenets and mores we can do no other than deny them the benison of legal protection. What other choice is there?