ERRC Written Comments on Roma Rights Issues in France, for Consideration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination at its 66th session, February 21-March 11, 2005
22 February 2005
The situation of Gypsies, Travellers and Romani migrants in France has attained crisis proportions in recent years. Anti-Gypsy sentiment has never been addressed well in France, and bans on racial discrimination existing under French law are rarely if ever applied when Gypsies, Travellers or Romani migrants are subjected to the severe harms banned under the Convention, notwithstanding widespread contentions that "racism is not tolerated in France". Recently, a number of new laws have severely constricted possibilities for the expression of key elements of Gypsy and Traveller identity, while simultaneously providing racist local officials with legal justification for repressive and draconian measures aimed at -- and succeeding in achieving -- the exclusion of Gypsies and Travellers from nearly all elements of French public life and services.
The application of the combined provisions of a number of laws, policies and practices has very frequently been to drive Gypsies and Travellers from municipality to municipality, imposing a state of continuous forced circulation, and it has meant that recent Romani migrants suffer continual harassment by French police, and find themselves subject to expulsion en masse from France. Many Gypsies and Travellers believe that the full apparatus of the state is being brought against them, possibly to end key elements of their culture, or more likely for no reason other than to try to force them away from French society altogether. At the same time, for a number of reasons particular to French public discourse, no serious public discussion involving Gypsies and Travellers or Romani migrants has taken place. The impact of these various administratively-led efforts has been to inflame racial hatred against Gypsies, Travellers and Romani migrants in France, while simultaneously to damage seriously possibilities for their integration with full dignity, in accordance with international human rights laws by which France is bound.
The ERRC written submission to the CERD presents the results of ERRC research in a number of areas relevant to the Convention. Following a general introduction, the submission details concerns in the following areas:
- Anti-Discrimination Legislation
- Racist Speech/Expression
- Interference with Freedom of Movement and Private and Family Life
- Issues Related to the Provision of Identity Documents
- Arbitrary Limitations on Participation in Public Life
- Discrimination in Access to Adequate Housing
- Discriminatory and Abusive Conduct by Law Enforcement Officials
- Discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers in the French Judicial System
- Discrimination in Access to Social Assistance
- Discrimination in Access to Public Services
- Violations of the Right to Work
- Violations of the Right to Education of Traveller and Gypsy Children
- Subjecting Romani Migrants to Inhuman and Degrading Treatment
The submission concludes with a list of recommendations to the French government, for assistance to the Committee in drawing concluding observations regarding France's compliance with the Convention. The full text of ERRC's submission on France to the CERD is available at: View it (Microsoft Word doc format)!