Over recent weeks, France has pushed forward with implementing a policy that targets Roma and travellers, both migrants and citizens, consisting of shutting down Roma and travellers’ camps and deporting migrants.
The policy targets both those Roma migrants from Romania and Bulgaria residing in France, estimated at around 15,000 people, and also the French Roma and traveller community, estimated at around 350,000 people. According to official statements, France plans to disband 300 camps over the next three months, several of which have already been broken up. Last year France sent ‘home’ around 10,000 Roma people (several EU states followed this example), and during the last week it has deported around 700 Roma people to Bulgaria and Romania. Roma are offered 300 EUR per adult and 100 EUR per child if they voluntarily leave France.
The main concern is the ‘reason’ provided for undertaking the measures, which has been mentioned by Sarkozy and in a number of official statements; namely the alleged criminality of Roma and travellers (theft, prostitution, trafficking, etc), which allows the French government to justify these policies in the name of ‘protecting’ its citizens. All relevant international organisations, including EU, UN, Council of Europe and Amnesty International among others unanimously condemn these statements and the resulting policies as prejudice and discrimination. Such inflammatory statements provoke racist sentiments towards Roma and travellers among the mainstream population and can potentially lead to racially based violence and discrimination (which we have witnessed in other countries during the last 5 years: the fingerprinting and deportations of Roma in Italy, murders in Hungary, etc).
Moreover, the measures alone violate the rights of targeted groups: forced evictions from camps violate rights on housing, deportations violate freedom of movement, protection by law, equality before the law and a number of other internationally recognised rights, culminating with this racially based discrimination.
On top of that, virtually all experts agree that these measures are neither solving the problem nor addressing its roots, often found in the poverty and substandard living conditions which made those the targeted communities move (from Bulgaria and Romania or within France) in the first place.
The current practices of marking and collectively targeting Roma throughout Europe, and particularly in France, is being compared by many to the Nazi persecution of Roma and other groups some 70 years ago. ‘Les rafles’, meaning roundups, is a historically loaded term that has been used by those within Sarkozy’s party itself to criticise the current crackdown, which is threatening to grow far worse.
Therefore, UNITED the pan-European network against nationalism, racism, rascism and in support of migrants and refugees calls upon France and other EU countries to stop such ill treatment towards Roma, and instead work on their integration with the support of the EU.
Press release of UNITED (pan-European network against nationalism, racism, fascism and in support of migrants and refugees, supported by over 560 organisations in 46 European countries)
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On 6 September a select group of EU Interior Ministers will attend a summit in Paris on the broad topic of immigration and Roma, it is significant that representatives from both Romania and Bulgaria were not invited. Therefore we forward a call for protest, to take place on the same date outside French Embassies across Europe and initiated by Roma Civic Alliance of Romania Roma. For further details, please see link below.