Thursday, November 29, 2012


Despite promises from Hollande, France is failing Roma people



French authorities must immediately stop all evictions until all the international human rights safeguards can be guaranteed to inhabitants of informal settlements – says Amnesty International

Swept in on a wave of optimism, Fran├žois Hollande offered France a new vision for the future when he was elected as the nation's new president back in May. For Amnesty International, it also offered hope to a much ignored and persecuted European minority – the Roma people. In France, settlements of migrant Roma workers have repeatedly fallen victim to illegal forced evictions. Families have been moved on with little care or concern for their safety and where they would go.

In the election campaign, Hollande had pledged to address the issue. He said that his wish was "that when an unsanitary camp is dismantled and alternative solutions are proposed". He added: "We cannot continue to accept that families are chased from a place without a solution." But six months on, our report published today reveals how hollow those promises were. The 63-page document
Chased away: forced evictions of Roma in the Ile-de-France highlights the failure of the new government to incorporate international human rights standards on evictions into domestic law.

As a consequence, forced evictions continue to take place without prior, consultation or notice to residents. Most of the estimated 15,000 migrant Roma living in France come from Romania and some from Bulgaria. Almost all are fleeing chronic poverty and discrimination in their countries of origin. There is a chronic shortage of adequate housing and emergency shelter for all who need it in France but Roma – the victims of prejudice and discrimination in France as much as elsewhere in Europe – are particularly vulnerable to violations of their internationally guaranteed right to adequate housing.

One case concerns 27-year-old mother of two Carmen. She lived in a makeshift cabin in Villeneuve-le-Roi until she was forcibly evicted on September 11, 2012. She was offered two nights of emergency accommodation in a hotel. The police did not let her collect her belongings during the eviction and she had to walk for hours with her children, aged eight and four, and luggage to reach the hotel. When our researchers met her on September 22, she was living in a two-person tent with her husband and two children - in an informal settlement in Champs-sur-Marne. There was no access to water or toilets on the camp and none of the children were registered in school.

The camps and squats visited varied in size and in services provided. However, at all the inhabitants' health was at serious risk due to the absence of, or inadequate access to, running water, toilets and refuse collection. They were also often infested by rats. Under international law, France is obliged to guarantee the right to adequate housing without discrimination and to prevent forced evictions. This means that the French authorities must immediately stop all evictions until all the international human rights safeguards can be guaranteed to inhabitants of informal settlements. We urge Hollande to act now. Failure to do so will see tragic cases such as Carmen and her family being repeated time and time again.

Kate Allen is United Kingdom director at the campaign group Amnesty International

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