SHARE
COPY LINK

ROMA

UN rights chief blasts Paris for Roma evictions

France has once again been blasted for its treatment of Roma communities. This time it's the UN's human rights chief who has taken Paris to task for forced evictions of Roma camps.

UN rights chief blasts Paris for Roma evictions
France once again criticized over its policy of deporting Roma, but will anything change? Photo: AFP

The UN rights chief on Friday condemned what he described as a “systematic national policy” in France to evict Roma, two weeks after more than 150 people were forced from a shantytown north of Paris.

“It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a systematic national policy to forcibly evict the Roma,” Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement, attacking the policy as “punitive and destructive.”

A failure to improve treatment of Roma people “simply exacerbates entrenched popular discrimination against what is already one of Europe's most deprived and marginalised communities,” he said.

France has come under fire from various quarters in recent years for its policy towards the Roma, which basically involves evicting them from their makeshift camps and deporting them – despite the fact that as EU citizens they should enjoy the same freedom of movement as British or Germans.

The latest eviction came last month when around  300 Roma were forced out of a shanty town in the northern suburbs of Paris despite a strong call for the camp to remain.

The collection of makeshift homes had stood in the area for around seven years – enough to make it the oldest of its kind in France. A judge ruled that enough was enough and that the slum had to be torn down. 

Charity organizations had offered to fund and carry out a cleaning of the slum, to install running water, and to help register the residents in schools and jobs with the long-term goal of joining regular society. 

But their offer of help fell on deaf ears.

Many thought France's hardline policy towards the Roma would change in 2012 when Socialist President François Hollande was elected into power, but instead the evictions have continued and even accelerated.

The policy has prompted Brussels to threaten sanctions against the French government.

“Free movement as freedom to reside in another country are fundamental rights. If these principles enshrined in the treaties are not met, then the commission will use all means at its disposal,” to sanction such violations, warned European Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly back in 2013. 

“The Roma, like all EU citizens, enjoy the right to freedom of movement in all EU member states and to reside in a country other than their country of origin,” Bailly added.

The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has been an outspoken defender of the country's policy of deporting migrants, but was accused of being inflammatory and “encouraging animosity” when he said Roma people would never integrate in France.

Despite thousands of government-financed repatriations, the numbers of Roma in France have remained stable, reflecting the reality that anyone flown back to Romania or Bulgaria can immediately return to France under EU freedom of movement laws.

 

 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

ROMA

Roma in France seek protection after attacks sparked by fake child snatching rumours

Ethnic Roma leaders called for round-the-clock police protection on Wednesday after a series of vigilante attacks in Paris sparked by false reports of attempted kidnappings.

Roma in France seek protection after attacks sparked by fake child snatching rumours
Police have renewed their calls on Twitter not to relay the abduction claims. Photo: AFP

Police arrested 20 people following attacks on Monday night on Roma people in suburbs northeast of Paris following false rumours spread on messaging apps and social media warning of abductions.

“We are calling today on the interior ministry… for immediate protection by way of round-the-clock police presence,” Anina Ciucin, a lawyer and spokesperson for The Voice of Roma group told RMC radio.

She said the reports were “a revival of the medieval stereotype” of Roma in which “gypsies are likened to thieves and child-catchers.”

The attacks appeared to have been sparked by the re-emergence of a long-standing online hoax that has circulated in France for years in which people warn of a white van being used in attempted kidnappings of young women or children.

Police have renewed their calls on Twitter not to relay the claims and have confirmed that there have been no reports of kidnappings in the area.

A Roma camp in 2017 built on an abandoned railway line in northern Paris. Photo: AFP

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux termed the attacks “unacceptable”, adding that this showed “the absolute need to fight 'fake news'”.

“Spreading such rumours in a highly organised and viral way on social media results in violence (and) the stigmatisation of a community,” he said, calling the process “detestable”.

READ ALSO: Paris: Fake rumours of 'white-van' child-snatchers spark attacks on Roma people

In one attack on Monday night in the suburb of Bobigny, some 50 people armed with sticks and knives set upon Roma living in a nearby slum, setting fire to their parked vans.

“Since then we're constantly scared,” said Georghe Marcus, one of around 150 Roma from Romania, Serbia and Moldova who live in wasteland next to a canal.

“We're not sleeping because we're keeping guard all night.”

Roma people were also chased in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois and had to seek refuge in a supermarket to escape violence, according to Ciucin and judicial sources who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

 Tensions

On March 16, a gang of around 20 young people attacked two people in a white van in the Paris suburb of Colombes, leaving both with light injuries, police said.

Many rumours appear to have been spread on the Snapchat messaging service, as well as on Facebook where posts from people claiming their children or family members had been approached by strangers or abducted have been widely shared.

In December, police in the town of Versailles, west of Paris, issued a warning about abduction rumours carried online.

Police reminded social media users that under French law spreading a false rumour could be punished with fines of 45,000 to 135,000 euros.

Tens of thousands of Roma people have lived in France for centuries, but a fresh influx of some 20,000 people, mainly from Romania and Bulgaria, since the 1980s has led to the creation of new slums and increased tensions, according to a 2017 study by the government-sponsored National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

Successive French governments have sought to dismantle the slums and repatriate recently arrived Roma who, while allowed to travel freely in Europe, are not eligible to apply for jobs in France unless they meet certain qualifications.

Between 10 and 12 million Roma people, also known as Roms, live in Europe, of whom six million are within European Union borders, according to the Council of Europe human rights group.

 
SHOW COMMENTS