London: Europe`s largest minority group - the Romani - with approximately 11 million people began their migration from northern India to Europe 1,500 years ago, much earlier than previously thought, according to a new research.
The Romani were known as "gypsies" in the 16th century because they were originally thought to have come from Egypt.
Genetic scientists have found that the Romani population first arrived through the Balkans and began dispersing outwards from there 900 years ago, the `Daily Mail` reported.
They first arrived in the UK in 1513, the research team believes.
"We were interested in exploring the population history of European Romani because they constitute an important fraction of the European population, but their marginalised situation in many countries also seems to have affected their visibility in scientific studies," Professor David Comas, of the Institut de Biologia Evolutiva at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain, said.
Early European references describe wandering, nomadic communities who were known for their music and skill with horses, they also suffered centuries of discrimination, including extermination by some 20th-century fascist regimes including Hitler and Stalin.
The Romani people lack written historical records on their origins and dispersal so the team gathered genome-wide data from 13 Romani groups collected across Europe to confirm an Indian origin for European Romani, consistent with earlier linguistic studies.
The study in journal Current Biology offers the first genome-wide perspective on Romani origins and demographic history.
The authors claim that their findings could have implications for various disciplines including human evolution and health sciences.
"From a genome-wide perspective, Romani people share a common and unique history that consists of two elements - the roots in northwestern India and the admixture with non-Romani Europeans accumulating with different magnitudes during the out-of-India migration across Europe," co-author Professor Manfred Kayser from Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands said.
"I think Roma has been discriminated against in Europe almost since their arrival and they continue to suffer discrimination and structural poverty throughout Europe today," said Robert Kushner, chairman of the board of the European Roma Rights Centre in Hungary.
"In some countries Roma will compromise 25 per cent of the work force in the near future so for a whole number of reasons - economic, moral, and for legal obligations to human rights - the discrimination should be addressed," Kushner added.