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Government document cites French effort to target Roma

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-09-14

A letter from France’s Interior Ministry published in the French press mentions Roma as the prime targets of a campaign to dismantle illegal camps, contradicting prior declarations from Immigration Minister Eric Besson.

A document from France’s Interior Ministry published in the French press indicates that Roma have been explicitly singled out by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial security crackdown, contradicting prior declarations from his administration.

The letter, dated August 5 and first obtained and published by online news site Le Canard Social, says that “300 illegal camps must be evacuated within three months, the priority being those of the Roma”. But just last week, Immigration Minister Eric Besson – who said Monday that he was “unaware” of the Interior Ministry document -- asserted that Roma were not, in fact, being singled out by the government, saying that “there has been no collective expulsion”.

Now French Socialists and rights groups are accusing the government of acting illegally, since its policy directly targets one segment of the population, rather than individuals who have committed infractions.

‘Symbol of a xenophobic policy’

France’s crackdown on “travelling people” has earned sharp rebukes from the UN and the Vatican, as well as French politicians on both sides of the political spectrum. Last week, the European Parliament approved a non-binding resolution calling for a stop to French deportations of Roma.

Estimations put France’s Roma population at roughly 15,000. Many of those deported recently have said they will return to France, where they can make more money through odd jobs and begging than they can in Romania or Bulgaria.

France, which has expelled approximately 9,000 Roma since the beginning of the year, says it is carrying out its deportations according to the situation of the individual, and therefore in accordance with the law.

“European law has been respected”, Immigration Minister Eric Besson said last week during a visit to Bucharest to meet with Romanian ministers.

The European Commission has asked the French government to provide further information proving that deportations were carried out according to law.

Prominent French Socialist – and member of European Parliament -- Harlem Désir released a statement on Sunday, slamming the Interior Ministry document as a “symbol of a xenophobic policy”. He also called for the policy to be revised and for the European Commission to pursue its investigation of the French government for “the undignified treatment and unacceptable stigmatization of the Roma, who are European citizens”.

Several associations, including Gisti (Information and Support Group for Immigrants), have called for the document to be revoked and are planning to file an official complaint against the government for “provoking racial hatred”.

Focus: Roma round-up sparks fresh row

Date created : 2010-09-13

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