LEADERS from across Europe are in Glasgow to discover how the city works with its Roma population.

For two days, delegates from local authorities in Romania, Bulgaria, Spain and Hungary will share advice about how to integrate Roma people into local communities.

They will hear from Glasgow's social work department, Glasgow City Council, Govanhill Housing Association and a host of other agencies.

It is hoped that the conference, part of European Commission scheme RomaNet Works, will inspire those involved to try difference approaches to integration which have proved to be successful elsewhere.

Jorge Vitores, area director of the Mayor's Office, is heading the delegation from the city of Almeria in Spain.

He said that, although Almeria has had a Roma community since the 15th century, Glasgow is leaps and bounds ahead of Spain in working with the minority group.

Jorge said: "Many things you think of as Spanish actually belong to the Roma culture, such as flamenco music. Flamenco is Roma music.

"Glasgow is an example of good practice in dealing with Roma people.

"In Almeria we have two kinds of Roma people: we have those who are long-established and then we have those newly arriving from Romania.

"We have the same problems with the same stereotypes as you do in Glasgow, such as they are not going to school, they don't like to work, they like to live on benefits.

"It's a really difficult situation."

The Roma remain one of the most marginalised and discriminated against ethnic groups in Europe.

Scotland has an estimated 5000 Roma people living here with 3500 in Glasgow, the majority of whom live in Govanhill.

At a recent census it was found there are 15,000 people living in a half square mile radius.

But Govanhill Housing Association said that when they looked at the figures, the Roma population had been excluded.

Dave Zabiega, Sustainable Communities Coordinator for the housing association, said the organisation puts the population in the half square mile to be between 17,000 and 18,000.

Mr Zabiega spoke to the conference about work being done by the association to help integrate the thousands of Roma people who have settled in the community.

He told of the Roma Peer Education project, which was run with the NHS and saw 10 Roma people trained to teach others in their community about how to access health services.

During the course of the training, the peer educators made suggestions that were then used to change the way GP practices interact with Roma patients.

Mr Zabiega also spoke about the backcourts initiative, which gave employment and training to 190 people between 2012 and 2015 with 45% of those from the Roma community.

He said: "Contrary to popular opinion, we found that Roma people are actually desperate for work, are looking to contribute to their community and are happy to volunteer doing things in the community that other people wouldn't do."

It is hoped the conference will inspire partners to try difference approaches to integration which have proved to be successful elsewhere.

From Glasgow, Govanhill Community Development Trust, Crossroads Youth & Community Association organisation, which runs a community engagement project with local Roma people, and Ann Morton-Hyde, a Glasgow-based expert on Roma issues all spoke to delegates.

Today presentations will be given by delegates Sofia, from Bulgaria, and Glasgow-based Community Renewal.

The project is due for completion in May, when a final report and booklet with good practice examples will be produced.

It is hoped this will provide a basis for renewed partnerships in future that may led to further bids for EU funds that can assist with integration and inclusion.

Mr Vitores added: "At a social level you are way ahead of us. For example, you have more effective ways of dealing with non-school attendance.

"In Spain it is a matter for the policeman, we have a policeman who is then looking for people who are meant to be at school and this just doesn't work with this community.

"We are all learning from each other but I would say that the way Glasgow deals with the problem is much more advanced than we do in Spain and we are coming here to learn."