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France: outsiders in their own country

After three months of controversy, France 24 offers you a different look at Gypsies and Roma people. Our reporter Hélène Frade visited a suburb of Paris, where teachers go to makeshift camps to meet their pupils.

It all begins in the middle of the summer, in Saint-Aignan, a sleepy village in the Loir-et-Cher region. One July evening, a young man from the Gypsy community is killed while trying to force a gendarmes’ roadblock. For his loved ones, the news is unacceptable. In their anger, they sack several shops as well as the gendarmerie of Saint-Aignan.

At the height of summer, this local news story takes on unforeseen proportions. Brice Hortefeux, the French interior minister, kicks things off. He expresses surprise at seeing “cars with powerful engines” on makeshift camps of the Gypsies, often an underprivileged community. The implication is clear.

President Sarkozy takes over during his speech on security in Grenoble on July 30th. He simultaneously talks of Gypsies and Roma people - a nomadic population having moved from Eastern Europe, mainly Romania and Bulgaria.

In the space of a few days, the events in Loir-et-Cher become the problem of a whole community, a community which is then assimilated with a foreign population.

Everything starts to move very fast, and as often happens in such cases, the media coverage is disproportionate.

After a few weeks, it becomes almost impossible to enter into contact not only with Gypsies but also with Roma people. The communities are exasperated with and frightened by the sudden pressure they have become subject to.

I decide to approach the story differently. My goal is to understand why these two communities have now found themselves not only associated with the problems of insecurity and delinquency, but also associated with each other.

After a few days, I discover the existence of an NGO, Aset, which helps Gypsy children receive an education. These teachers work alongside Gypsies and Roma people from Eastern Europe. They reach out to them, and they will be the key to filming my report.

By Hélène FRADE

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