An internal memo sent to employees of the police precinct of Paris’s 6th district calling for the removal of homeless Roma families from the affluent neighbourhood has been “rectified”, France’s interior ministry announced on Tuesday.
The memo, unveiled by French daily newspaper Le Parisien earlier today, provoked the ire of French anti-racism associations.
The interior ministry’s statement on Tuesday noted that “No police officer may target an individual because of his or her real or presumed nationality.”
Interviewed by Le Parisien, the district’s right-wing UMP mayor, Jean-Pierre Lecoq, defended the memo, arguing that it was intended to prevent young children, including babies, from sleeping in the street – a phenomenon he called “unacceptable on both human and social levels”.
But French group SOS Racisme released a strongly worded statement slamming the memo in light of rising discrimination against Roma communities throughout Europe.
“This amounts to a kind of violence against Roma, or presumed Roma, populations, who are already victims in France and across the European continent of a stigmatisation that is beyond worrying,” the statement read.
Fire fuelled by Valls
French policy regarding Roma has been the subject of fierce debate, particularly after the interior ministry ordered police to dismantle Roma encampments in 2012.
In 2013 alone, 21,537 Roma were removed from such encampments, according to a report published by French NGO Human Rights League (LDH) and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC).
Cries of protest from rights groups grew louder when current Prime Minister Manuel Valls, then interior minister, said last September that Roma would be better off returning to their "countries of origin", by which he meant Romania and Bulgaria, calling their lifestyle “incompatible” with that of the French.
An estimated 20,000 Roma live in France. Half of those are believed to be in the Paris area.
Date created : 2014-04-15