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Hollande Should Keep His Election Promises Regarding Roma

22 August 2012

Budapest, Paris, 22 August 2012: As French Government officials are participating in an inter-ministerial meeting to discuss Roma matters following a new wave of collective evictions and expulsions, the European Roma Rights Centre calls on French authorities to adopt and implement policies based on human rights values, not supposed security concerns.

Since ex-President Sarkozy kicked off an infamous campaign to systematically evict and expel migrant Romanian and Bulgarian Roma from France almost exactly two years ago, France failed to put into practice long-term, sustainable policies and solutions to address Roma related issues. Today, the French government will discuss Roma matters: a new opportunity for France to prove that “égalité and fraternité” are not just archaic concepts. 

During the recent elections, President Hollande promised to end the practice of evictions and expulsions, which has been welcomed by Roma as well as the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and other rights organisations. However, President Hollande has failed to deliver on that promise as France continues to evict and expel Roma, a method to rid France of migrant Roma that Sarkozy tried and failed.

In 2012, the new French Government has continued to forcibly evict and expel migrant Roma. So far this year, at least 4,190 Roma are reported to have been evicted or expelled and at least 350 expulsion orders have been distributed in 2012.

The ERRC has closely followed the situation in France for many years, producing a comprehensive report on France entitled, Hors d’ici! Anti-tsiganisme en France in 2005 and conducting a detailed analysis of Roma and Traveller-related policy and practice in France on behalf of the European Commission.  The ERRC has also submitted two detailed submissions in August 2010 and in September 2010 to the European Commission requesting the commencement of infringement proceedings against France for failure to adequate implement EU law.

“The recent revival of mass evictions and expulsions of migrant Roma from France has prompted the ERRC to again express its concern to the French Government” said ERRC Executive Director Dezideriu Gergely in a statement. “French authorities and the public should keep in mind that Roma from Romania and Bulgaria come to France to overcome the severe human rights conditions that they face at home. Actions to help them integrate fully into the French labour market and society will be much more effective at addressing the current situation than simply paying them to leave”.

In Romania and Bulgaria Roma suffer discrimination and economic and social exclusion and State and private actors continue to target Romani communities in violent attacks. In recent months, Romanian police officers shot three Romani men, killing two. In Bulgaria, Romani individuals and communities have been targeted in at least 10 violent attacks in the last year. Similarly, high-ranking politicians and extremist political parties frequently use anti-Romani rhetoric, creating a climate in which Roma feel unsafe and unwelcome at home. Politicians in both countries, including the Romanian Foreign Minister, have made public statements suggesting that Roma are genetically predisposed to criminality. Romanian MPs have also attempted to officially change the name of Roma to “Gypsies” to avoid confusion with “Romanians”. 

In short, Roma move to France to start a new life, a decent life. 

For the last two years, the ERRC has engaged a full time human rights monitor in France who actively monitors the eviction and expulsion of mostly Romanian and Bulgarian Roma from France and who supports Romani migrants to challenge illegal evictions and expulsions. The ERRC documents evictions and distribution of expulsion orders, collects all necessary papers for legal aid applications and other evidence from Romani individuals and coordinates a group of French lawyers to provide court representation. The ERRC monitor attends court hearings and provides legal support if needed. The ERRC’s work aims to protect families against systematic evictions and illegal deportation and promote integration processes, while at the same time challenge the practice of French authorities to evict and expel Roma en masse, in violation of several international and regional laws, including the EU Directive on Free Movement.

On the basis of this work, the ERRC calls on the French authorities undertake the following measures with respect to migrant Roma: 

  • Refrain from carrying out forced evictions in the absence of legal safeguards, including adequate alternative housing; 
  • Ensure that no Romani individual is made homeless in the process of eviction;
  • Develop sustainable, adequate integrated housing solutions for all Roma;
  • Amend French law to remove “abuse of rights” as a ground for expelling EU citizens from France;
  • Refrain from collectively expelling Romani EU citizens from France;
  • Introduce clear guidelines on how authorities should safeguard rights in accordance with the requirements of the Directive 2004/38/EC on free movement;
  • Ensure that returns to other EU Member States are truly voluntary, accompanied by reintegration assistance and take account of the needs of vulnerable peoples in the process of humanitarian returns;
  • Ensure independent monitoring of all immigration processes and programmes, including both return and reintegration;
  • Redirect funding earmarked for expulsions and returns to the implementation of long term inclusion policies; and
  • End restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian nationals for accessing employment in France and work with migrant Romani communities to secure formal employment in France. 

This press release is also available in French.

For more information, contact:

Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre

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