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France finally scraps 'derogatory' traveller IDs

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France finally scraps 'derogatory' traveller IDs
A woman outside her caravan home in Agde, southern France. Photo: AFP
11:27 CEST+02:00
France had been the only country in the world to force its travelling community to carry special IDs. But after a telling off from the United Nations, the government has finally scrapped the draconian law.
Since 1969 in France, members of the travelling community with no fixed home for more than six months have been required to carry a booklet known as a "livret de circulation". 
 
It has functioned like an identity card or passport, and anyone over the age of 16 who couldn't produce one for French police faced fines of up to €1,500 ($1,700).
 
But following a rebuke from the UN, which judged that France was not respecting the principle of free movement by forcing travellers to carry these documents, French MPs voted on Tuesday to finally abolish the booklet
 
This means that travellers will be eligible for normal identity cards like the rest of the French public.
 
"It's time to recognize that travellers are citizens too," Socialist MP Dominique Raimbourg, who drafted the bill, told radio channel Europe 1.
 
He added that the new laws would put an end to "a derogatory regime" that had come to "control the travelling population".
 

(The headline from the Ouest France newspaper trumpets that the booklet "is finished".)
 
The bill proved controversial, however, with opposition party Les Republicains and centrist UDI voting against it. 
 
Even members of the travelling community are at odds as to what it will mean for them. 
 
"This gives us the feeling that we're being stopped from our desire to move around," one traveller called Rocky, who lives in a caravan in Buchelay, northwest of Paris, told radio channel RTL
 
There are believed to be between 350,000 and 400,000 travellers in France, with 100,000 estimated to be constantly on the move. 
 
The new bill will now be passed to the senate. 
 
Authorities in France have had a fraught relationship with travellers. In 2013, the mayor of a village in central France made the extraordinary public threat to take his own life if a group of travellers return to the area.
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