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Latest update : 2011-09-27

Is France the promised land for Roma people?

Ever since Romania joined the EU in 2007, France has been faced with an influx of Roma dreaming of a better life. But often the road ends with expulsion and they are sent back to square one. Far from being discouraged, these Roma immigrants refuse to give up on living in France, and cross the border again and again. France 24 followed one such family on their quest to fulfil their French dream.

Facing discrimination in Romania, the Roma people often decide to look for a better life in Western Europe. In Barbulesti, a small village around 60 kilometres from Bucharest, half of the 7,000 members of the Roma community make round trips to France. The Duduveicas are no exception. For three years, this Romanian family lived in Boulogne-sur-Mer, in northern France. But in the summer of 2010 they were expelled. Their aim ever since then has been to return to France, the land of their dreams. “I do care about my life”, says Romeo Duduveica, the older boy of the family. I saw my father begging. And this is not a life. I don’t want to live my father’s life”.

The decision is taken. The Duduveicas - the father, the mother and their two boys, Romeo and Adrian - are ready to leave. Having gathered all their belongings into one suitcase, they start their journey back to France. They do not care about the distance - 3,000 kilometres - or the conditions (they travel in a crowded, improvised minibus). Their adventure ends on the French Riviera, in the south of France. Compared to Barbulesti, the Croisette in Cannes is a dream come true. This is a place where they have some acquaintances: other Roma families from their native village who have settled in the region. “Now that I have this chance to become somebody, I don’t want to spoil it, says Romeo. Here, I feel like I’m up to it”.

School registration a priority

Laura, the mother, is well aware that without education, her children have no chance of success. So school registration is her priority. Richard Pfau, a volunteer for the Education Without Borders network, helps them obtain an official address in a Catholic mansion, in the city of Grasse. But they actually live in a derelict house, without water or electricity, in an industrial suburb, together with another four Roma families from Barbulesti. “One must never lose hope because there’s always something to be done, explains Romeo, smiling. As long as you are healthy and alive, you can go through everything”.

Helped and guided by Richard Pfau, the Duduveicas succeed in getting an appointment with the headmaster of Saint Hilaire high school in Grasse. In less than an hour, the children are registered at the school and the family is relieved. In case of arrest, the authorities might now be more tolerant with them. It looks like the Duduveicas have won their bet. Although they can still be expelled at any time, they now hope to start a new life on the French Riviera.

By Mirel BRAN

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