Marseille residents force out Roma, burn their camp
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A group of angry residents of a Marseille suburb has forced a group of Roma (Gypsy) families to move on from their temporary camp, before burning everything that they had left behind.
Residents of a housing estate in the southern French city of Marseille forced a group of Roma (Gypsy) families that had installed themselves nearby to move on, before burning all that remained of their encampment, local press reported on Thursday.
According to La Provence newspaper, police were called to separate dozens of the residents from the Roma families, who left the site in Marseille’s 15th arrondissement (district) “without violence”, police said.
Everything that was left behind was gathered up and burned. Police said no arrests were made and that there had been no violence.
The locals, according to La Provence, had forewarned the authorities that they would be taking action against the estimated 35 Roma who had installed themselves there a few days before.
Samia Ghali, who is mayor of the city’s northern 15th and 16th arrondissements, told AFP a delegation had gone to see her on Thursday morning, complaining of burglaries and that the Roma “had tried to enter buildings and made everything dirty”.
The direct action by locals in Marseille comes as France’s newly-elected Socialist government is under fire for continuing the much-criticised policy of former rightwing President Nicolas Sarkozy of dismantling Gypsy camps and “repatriating” Roma travellers to Romania and Bulgaria.
An estimated 15,000 ethnic Roma, mostly originating from Bulgaria and Romania, currently live in makeshift camps across France.
The government moved last month to appease critics of its policy by announcing that it would ease restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants' access to the jobs market.
But it said the dismantling of camps would continue, despite calls from some ministers and human rights groups for them to be stopped unless alternative accommodation was arranged first.