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France

Amnesty rebukes Hollande for ongoing Roma evictions

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2013-09-25

Amnesty International has called on France’s Socialist government to halt the policy of forcibly evicting Roma people, an initiative that was first implemented by Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing government.

Dismantling migrant camps and deporting Roma people was a signature policy of France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy; one that was heavily criticized by many on the left, including by his successor, François Hollande.

However, rights group Amnesty International is now slamming France’s new Socialist government for evicting thousands of Roma from squats around the Paris region since it came to power.

In a report published Thursday, the prominent rights organisation said forced evictions of Roma remained a standard practice under Hollande, who was sworn in as president in May. It estimated that 22 camps housing more than 2,300 people, including 189 children, were torn down across France in July and August 2012.

“The number of forced deportations has remained stable, about the same as under the old government. There was even a spike during the third quarter of 2012,” Marion Cadrier, a French researcher for Amnesty International, told the press at a Wednesday conference in Paris.

The rights group argued that continuing the Sarkozy-era policy made the situation worse, and failed to meet European Union and international human rights standards.

“As a result of all of these policies of eviction, exclusion or rejection, we are sinking a population deeper and deeper into poverty. No one is helping them and this will have dramatic consequences for the future,” Geneviève Garrigos, president of Amnesty International France, told France 24.

There are an estimated 15,000 migrant Roma living in France. Most come from Romania, and some from Bulgaria, often fleeing poverty and discrimination in their home countries, the report said.

A revolving door

Starting in 2010, Sarkozy’s government launched a very public campaign to send Roma people packing, even angering some in Brussels.

In September of that year, EU justice commissioner Vivian Reding threatened to launch an infringement procedure against France for the country’s failure to apply the body’s 2004 Directive on Freedom of Movement, but eventually retracted the measure.

As non-French EU citizens, Roma are barred by French law from staying in the country for more than three months unless they find a job or can prove they have enough money to support themselves.

However, their EU citizenship entitles expelled Roma the freedom to return to France. Amnesty's report confirmed that many had made several trips back and forth from Romania and France in the past few years.

In response to outcry from its own base over ongoing evictions, the Socialist government announced earlier this year that it would extend the list of professions opened up to Romanian and Bulgarian nationals.

Commissioner Reding said in August that her office would keep a vigilant eye on the treatment of Roma people under Hollande.

Date created : 2012-11-29

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