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France

French National Front ally would 'concentrate' Gypsies in 'camps'

© AFP screengrab from a Canal+ broadcast

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2014-03-05

A far-right mayoral candidate of Paris’s upmarket 6th arrondissement has apologised after writing on his blog that Roma (Gypsies) should be “concentrated” in “camps”.

Paul-Marie Coûteaux, a candidate for a fringe party linked to France’s anti-Europe and anti-immigration National Front (FN) party, likened the presence of Roma in Paris as an “invasion of lepers” that undermined the “aesthetic order” of the city.

“What can the interior minister do other than concentrate these foreign populations into camps where they would no doubt feel that life there was so far removed from their traveling lifestyle that they would rather leave such an inhospitable country,” he wrote in the February 19 blog post.

On Monday, French rights group SOS Racisme said it planned to start legal proceedings against Coûteaux “in the coming days” for his “disgusting” and “anti-republican” statements.

And on Tuesday, Coûteaux appeared to backtrack. In an interview with Metronews.fr, the former MEP and head of the CIEL (Sovereignty, Independence and Freedom) party which is allied to the FN insisted that his words had been misunderstood.

“If by using the word ‘camps’ people misinterpreted what I wrote then I am sorry,” he said. “I am a Catholic and a Gaullist … how could I possibly demand the creation of concentration camps in 2014?”

In the interview Côuteaux put forward two possible “solutions to deal with the Roma question”.

The first would be to “put these people in administrative detention centres” that are currently used to house illegal immigrants.

But he added: “I visited one of these centres while I was an MEP. It was awful, inhuman.”

Another “more rational, humane and reasonable” solution, he said, would be to “suspend the Schengen treaty” that allows for free movement across the European Union (most European Gypsies come from EU member states Romania and Bulgaria).

In an interview with French daily Le Parisien, Wallerand de Saint-Just, FN spokesman and candidate to become mayor of Paris in France’s local elections later in March, said it was “not his place” to criticise Côuteaux, even if he would “not have expressed himself in quite the same manner”.

Date created : 2014-03-04

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