France: International Review Committee on Racism Hears of Impunity for Anti-Gypsy Actions
22 February 2005
ERRC Testifies on Roma Rights Issues at United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Geneva, Budapest. Today, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) heard testimony by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) concerning systemic abuses of Gypsies, Travellers and Romani migrants, as that body reviews France's compliance with international law banning racial discrimination.
On the occasion of the review, ERRC International Advocacy Officer Cristi Mihalache said, "Beneath the cover of the French Republican ideology in which minorities are not recognised, official tolerance for racist acts against Gypsies, Travellers and Romani migrants is the norm."
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. Nevertheless, it is widely held 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 aspects 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. Additionally, recent Romani migrants suffer continual harassment by French police, and find themselves subject to expulsion en masse from France. Many Gypsies and Travellers believe the full apparatus of the state is being brought against them, possibly to end key elements of their culture, or 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 dramatically inflame racial hatred against Gypsies, Travellers and Romani migrants in France, while at the same time to damage seriously possibilities for their integration with full dignity, in accordance with international human rights laws by which France is bound.
In a written submission provided to the UN Committee in advance of today's hearing, the ERRC provided documentation of a range of issues including:
- Non-Recognition of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma as Minorities
- Racist Speech/Expression
- The Problematic Application of Regulations Requiring Circulation Documents
- Systemic Frustration of the Right to Vote
- Arbitrary Limitations on Participation in Public Life
- Arbitrary Restrictions on Freedom of Movement
- Systemic Inadequate Housing, Characterised by Segregation, Unhealthy and Polluted Environments, Lack of Basic Infrastructure, Surveillance and Control
- Forced Evictions
- Discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers in Access to Social Housing and Other Forms of Social Assistance
- Discriminatory and Abusive Conduct by Law Enforcement Officials
- Discrimination Against Gypsies and Travellers in the French Judicial System
- Discrimination in Access to Public Services
- Violations of the Right to Work
- Violations of the Right to Education of Traveller and Gypsy Children
The ERRC written comments to the UN CERD also detail areas inadequately covered by French domestic law banning racial discrimination, and provide factual details on the treatment of Romani migrants which may in some instances rise to the level of inhuman and degrading treatment. The ERRC submission concludes with a number of recommendations aimed at improving the human rights situation of Gypsies, Travellers and Romani migrants in France.
The full text of the ERRC written submission to the UN CERD is available at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2146
For further information, please contact Lanna Hollo: (33 66) 47 16 185