A group of 20 Roma (Gypsy) children near Lyon in southeast France have been refused access to local schools and are attending classes in a local police station instead.
A group of Roma (Gypsy) children in southeast France have been forced to attend classes at a police station after local schools refused to take them in, anti-racism campaigners have complained.
Their “school” is on the second floor of a police station at Saint-Fons, a suburb of Lyon. The 20 children, aged between six and 12, are all taught by one teacher.
They are not fed at lunchtime, as are all other pupils at French state schools, so at noon every day they have to walk 1.5 km back to the shanty town where some 100 Roma have been camped near the city bypass.
“It goes against all the principles of integration,” Jean-Philippe, a local campaigner for anti-racism group MRAP, told FRANCE 24. “It is a simple case of discrimination and stigmatisation of an ethnic minority.”
Jean-Philippe, who did not give his family name, explained that the Saint-Fons council had calculated that the local Roma encampment would have been moved on quickly, and so did not make any provisions for them to be received in local schools.
Major wants camp removed
Earlier in January Mayor Christiane Demontès applied to the police to have the camp forcibly removed and the Roma moved on.
But a court ruled that their camp could not be taken down until the end of May.
“This means that these children have been deprived of a whole year in the school system,” he said. “They have been denied a chance to integrate.”
An estimated 15,000 ethnic Roma, mostly originating from Bulgaria and Romania, currently live in makeshift camps across France. The two countries became members of the expanded EU in 2007.
They will have full residency and employment rights throughout the economic bloc by the end of 2013.
Their presence in France has not always been welcome, and former President Nicolas Sarkozy made the dismantling of Roma camps and the “repatriation” of Roma to Romania and Bulgaria a key policy in the run-up to the 2012 election.
The government of Socialist President François Hollande has continued to dismantle Roma camps since coming to power in May 2012.
Date created : 2013-01-29