Last goodbyes in a Roma slum
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Constantin Drezaliu and his family have joined an integration scheme to obtain decent housing after the Parisian suburb of Saint-Ouen decided to tear down a Roma shantytown. FRANCE 24 followed them during their last hours in the camp.
The celebrations are over now. A week ago, the shantytown was buzzing with Roma parting revelry, merry-making and beer-drinking. Today, husband and wife Constantin Drezaliu and Pauline Visan are sitting quietly in front of a soggy shed, waiting for the housing agency's van that will take their belongings to new lodgings. "Do you know when they are coming?", they ask with a mixture of anxiety and anticipation.
The Drezaliu family is one of the 24 Roma families - approximately 80 people - chosen among the 600-strong population of a shantytown in the northern Parisian town of
"I want to be like other French people; I want to learn French, live normally, get a job and send my children to school," confides Drezaliu, an unemployed man and jack of all trades who grew up in Romania before moving to France two years ago.
|Pauline Visan cooks lunch in the Roma slum in Saint Ouen|
His wife Pauline is also relieved she will leave the shanty town. "I want to stay in
The rest of the shantytown is quiet. About 220 residents have already left for
It's time to go. Staff members from the prefecture and a local housing NGO Pact Arim 93 are waiting for them. Amid last-minute bickering over the luggage, the Drezaliu family rush towards an extremity of the camp and join a growing crowd of Roma men and women. "It's a bit chaotic," comments Constantine Drezaliu as the staff, armed with clip-boards, call out the names.
Isabelle Riem, an educator and Saint Ouen resident, has come along to show her support for the Roma families. She explains that many of her fellow neighbours reject the Roma people. "They think the Roma are thieves, and don't approve of the women begging with their children. But if they take them with them it's because they don't have babysitters."
Today, the children are excited, shouting out, "proyecto, proyecto!" referring to the integration scheme. They chant "Thank Yous" in falsetto, not quite so sincere, voices. Nobody wants to offend the local authorities.
"Can't you ride?" shouts a heavy employee as she throws a disapproving look at Drezaliu's bicycle. It's a fifteen-minute walk to the new site, and the Roma families march proudly through the town of
|Roma family walks through Saint Ouen to their new lodging.|
A first glimpse into their new abode
"Oh look, it's great, we’re going to have lights and television," says Drezaliu, grinning at the electricity wires hanging around the new caravan site. The workmen are adding the finishing touches to the site while the families wait huddled at the gate. First, they must sign up. The Roma families must agree to send their children to school, seek work. The caravan site is guarded to deter strangers, and families from the shanty-town who would like to join them.
Their social workers Nathalie Bouscal and Hélène Mardé, who already work on two similar projects around
Impatiently, Drezaliu circles the site to find his caravan. It's at the back. "It's big," he says leaning against the second-hand home. A curly-haired young man joins him, "how luxurious," he exclaims, before adding "how many are you?" with a hint of jealousy.
|Constantin Drezaliu stands in front of his new caravan|
As they unload their luggage, the members of the Drezaliu family are glad but tired. They say they want to stay forever, but according to their social workers, the caravan site is only temporary. They want to move the Roma into council flats within three years. "So far, the integration process seems to be working," Bouscal added.