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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-10-07

The 16th arrondissement is one of Paris's most chic and affluent neighbourhoods. It is also, according to some of the city’s far-left politicians, the perfect place to set up a Roma encampment.

The 16th arrondissement (district) in Paris is known for its chic. Home to the stunning Place du Trocadéro, with its sweeping view of the Eiffel Tower and swanky cafés, it is one of the capital’s most affluent neighbourhoods. But if the city’s far-left politicians have their way, it will also be the site of a new Roma encampment.

In a provocative move, elected officials from the Leftist Front (Front de Gauche) party in Paris have called for a city council vote on building a camp in the heart of the 16th arrondissement. Although the measure is not expected to gain much traction, it is a pointed commentary on the recent controversy surrounding the country’s Roma people.

The controversy began in late September after Interior Minister Manuel Valls said that it was “illusory to think that we will solve the Roma problem through integration” since, in his opinion, only a minority of Roma want to assimilate into French society.

Just a few days later, French marketing and opinion centre BVA published a poll commissioned by TV channel i-Télé and daily newspaper Le Parisien. It reported that 77 percent of French people agreed with Valls’ assessment that Roma were inherently “different”.

Since then, many French politicians have stepped forward to voice either their support for or opposition to Valls’ comments. It now appears, however, that Paris’s far-left representatives are willing to push the debate further.

“Ten-thousand of the 17,000 Roma immigrants in France live in the [Paris region]… in conditions of extreme poverty,”  communist Ian Brossat, who called for the vote and is leader of Paris’s far-left elected officials, told the AFP news agency.

Brossat said that not only is the 16th arrondissement Paris’ largest neighbourhood, but according to data compiled by the French national statistics institute INSEE, the number of people living there over the past 40 years had shrunk by more than 40,000 – thus making it the perfect place to set up a Roma encampment.

“Instead of stigmatising and exploiting the issue, we must find a solution,” Brossat said. “I think that the left must be on the offensive when it comes to the issue of Roma and avoid borrowing policies from the right, as Manuel Valls did.”

The proposed measure would not be legally binding if approved and is not being taken seriously by everyone.

“It’s amusing,” Claude Goasguen, deputy mayor of the 16th arrondissement, told AFP. “One can still talk nonsense.”

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-10-05


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