FRENCH AUTHORITIES INTERVENE AGAINST MORE ROMANI PEOPLE
PHOTO AP PHOTO JACQUES BRINON, FILE
French news server Le Progres.fr reports that French Police have evicted 10 Romani families from a municipally-owned building in Lyon which had been unoccupied for years until the families' recent arrival. Most of them are from Romania.
The eviction occurred after French authorities recently dissolved several Romani campsites elsewhere in the country. The European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) has objected to Paris's procedures. The Council of Europe considers the ERTF the main international organization for the protection of the rights of Romani people in Europe.
Authorities justified yesterday's eviction of 50 adults and children onto the street by claiming they plan to reconstruct the building. Romani representatives say the reconstruction is not to start until 2014. Romani civic associations say this is the seventh such intervention in Lyon, where more than 350 Romani people, most of them from Romania, have been forced to relocate since the start of the summer. The Romani evictees have demanded substitute accommodations, but authorities are refusing to provide any.
Last week the French Police cleared a campsite of approximately 200 Romani people near the northern town of Lille. The intervention followed a series of similar police actions in Lyon and Paris.
Police officers have been targeting Romani people from Eastern Europe who have no official documentation of their residency in France. A group of Romanian Romani people was subsequently deported from Lyon.
The new French socialist government is continuing the policies of the preceding right-wing cabinet in this respect.
The Catholic Church, the European Union and human rights defenders criticized the wave of Romani deportations from France back to Romania that occurred under former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the summer of 2010. Current French Interior Minister Manuel Valls launched the recent interventions by calling them legal and unavoidable because the Romani camps posed a public health threat. Approximately 20 000 Romani people live in France.
Many of the deported Romanian Romani people received EUR 300 each in support funds from the French authorities during their departure from the country, but returned to France anyway. Valls said the government is re-evaluating the policy of such financial support as well as restrictions on Romanian citizens working in France.
Human rights groups are criticizing the fact that no alternative temporary accommodation has been prepared for the Romani people, such as those evicted from a settlement near Lille, a group that included 60 children.
"What will happen to these families? [The authorities] take everything they have away from them - this is a violation of fundamental human rights," declared Father Arthur Hervet, a Catholic priest.
A spokesperson for the European Commission says the Commission is carefully following the manner in which the French authorities are now dissolving the Romani campsites and wants to investigate whether arbitrary deportations and discriminatory treatment are occurring. Two years ago, Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding criticized Sarkozy for deporting Romani people, most of them from Bulgaria and Romania, which are also EU Member States.
France eventually, under the threat of being taken to court, adopted guarantees which Reding said would "protect EU citizens from arbitrary deportation and discriminatory treatment."
On Monday the Council of Europe reported that the ERTF had sent a letter to French President Hollande asking Paris to radically change its policy toward Romani people, to stop disturbing Romani campsites without providing substitute accommodation, and to ease Romani integration by opening France's labor market to them.
"We regret that the policy of the socialist government regarding the Romani issue is, for the time being, just a continuation of the policy of your predecessor," the ERTF management's statement reads.
The ERTF is headquartered in Strasbourg. According to the Council of Europe, the forum brings together large international non-governmental organizations and more than 1 500 national associations of Romani people and Travellers from all of the countries of Europe.