Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE INTERVIEW

Todd Shepard, Author of 'The Algerian War and the Remaking of France'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Freed French Hostages: Celebration and Speculation on how it all happened

Read more

HIGH PROFILE

Justine Dupont, surfer

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

Guillaume Poitrinal, Chief executive of Woodeum

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria

Read more

WEB NEWS

France's top consumer group sues internet giants

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shocking revelations on South Korean ferry disaster provoke scathing editorials

Read more

HIGH PROFILE

Olivier Poussier, winner, world's best sommelier (2000)

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Peugeot-Citroën hopes for sales boost at Beijing auto show

Read more

  • Boston readies for first marathon since bombings

    Read more

  • Deadly shootout in eastern Ukraine threatens Geneva deal

    Read more

  • S.Korea president says captain’s action akin to ‘murder’

    Read more

  • Abdullah widens lead in Afghan presidential vote

    Read more

  • Leftist Sabahi to challenge Sisi for Egypt presidency

    Read more

  • Syria to hold presidential election on June 3

    Read more

  • The Great War's unsung four-legged heroes

    Read more

  • Video: Ukraine crisis overshadows Easter celebrations

    Read more

  • UK’s Hamilton cruises to victory at Chinese Grand Prix

    Read more

  • In pictures: French kite festival takes flight

    Read more

  • Freed French journalists arrive home after Syria ordeal

    Read more

  • Syria’s Assad visits recaptured Christian town at Easter

    Read more

  • Le Pen’s National Front fail to woo Britain’s Eurosceptics

    Read more

  • PSG clinch fourth League Cup title after beating Lyon

    Read more

  • Why Syria’s cash-strapped jihadists let hostages go

    Read more

  • Militants kill Algerian soldiers in deadly ambush

    Read more

  • Scores killed in South Sudan cattle raid

    Read more

France

France dismantles Roma camps, deports hundreds

©

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2012-08-10

French authorities expelled at least 200 Roma from their encampments near the northern city of Lille on Thursday, deporting many of them to Romania. The move comes a day after France's interior minister voiced concern about "unsanitary camps".

The French authorities on Thursday continued the previous conservative government’s controversial policy of dismantling illegal Roma (Gypsy) camps and “repatriating” their residents to Romania.

Two camps housing some 350 people were forcibly evacuated near the northern city of Lille, following similar operations in Paris and the south-western city of Lyon.

Meanwhile, the authorities were due to fly around 240 Roma “back” to Romania from Lyon in the biggest such operation since former president Nicolas Sarkozy was voted out of office in May.

Roma who are voluntarily “repatriated” are given 300 euros per adult and 150 euros per child, a policy criticised by many who believe they could easily use the money simply to return to France.

“The French government is wasting huge amounts of money to give them holidays back in Romania,” said Valeriu Nicolae, founder of the Policy Centre for Roma and Minorities in Bucharest, an NGO which works to provide work and education opportunities to young Roma.

“What else do you think they’re going to do?”, he told left-leaning daily Libération. “After all, it is much more comfortable living in a French ghetto than a Romanian one. They stay a couple of weeks, then they go back to France.”

Policy condemned

The policy of dismantling illegal camps and sending their residents back to Romania and Bulgaria -- both of them EU members since 2007 -- was initiated by Sarkozy in 2010.

It was widely condemned, with the EU’s Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding comparing the round-ups to World War II-era deportations.

Sarkozy was also accused of taking a deliberately hard-line stance in a desperate bid to court France’s significant far-right vote in the face of a difficult reelection campaign.

The continuation of the policy under Socialist President François Hollande, who ousted Sarkozy in May, has raised eyebrows.

Hollande had promised in his election campaign that while the dismantlement of illegal encampments would continue, satisfactory “alternative arrangement would be offered.”

But rights groups said no arrangements had been made for the residents of the illegal camps near Lille, which included some 60 children.

“What will become of these families?” said Arthur Hervet, a local priest who had planned to publicly baptise a number of the children to draw attention to their plight. “Everything is being taken away. It’s a breach of their fundamental rights.”

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, determined to foster an image of being “tough on crime”, said the raids were necessary because of the unsanitary conditions in which hundreds of people were living.

Paris insisted there was no racist motivation in closing the camps, adding that the evicted Roma had overstayed the time they were legally allowed to stay in France.

System ‘condemns Roma to begging’

Under the terms of Romania and Bulgaria’s succession to the EU in 2007, freedom of movement was granted throughout Europe.

“Transitory measures” in the succession agreement, however, mean that citizens from these countries are not allowed to work legally in France until December 31, 2013.

There are up to 20,000 Roma in France, around half in the Paris region.

While it is a relatively small minority, Roma tend to be particularly visible because of their poverty, while many resort to begging because they have no access to welfare or employment.

Malik Salemkour, vice president of France’s League for Human Rights, told Libération: “The right to work is fundamental to the fate of Roma in France and elsewhere."

“The current system condemns them to begging and hamstrings any meaningful attempts to integrate them into the community.”

On Thursday, Valls said the government was looking at ways to provide aid and was reviewing restrictions on working in France.

Date created : 2012-08-09

  • FRANCE - IMMIGRATION

    'Illegal' Roma teenager wins French 'best apprentice' award

    Read more

  • EUROPEAN UNION

    EU to drop legal threat against France over Roma expulsions

    Read more

  • EUROPEAN UNION

    Bitter row over Roma deportations overshadows EU summit

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)