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Forced evictions in France: inhuman and illegal

2016-03-04

By Radost Zahareiva

On 3rd of February, 300 Roma were evicted from their informal settlement situated in the 18th district of Paris. Some of those evicted were offered emergency shelter, but most were left on the street.

It has now become clear that this eviction was in fact illegal. A decision of  the Court (Tribunal de Grand Instance) dated 27th of January 2016 authorised the Roma families to stay in this settlement until June 2016. In spite of the legal decision, the eviction went ahead, casting numerous families and people suffering from serious illnesses out into the street. The Police claim that they were not informed in time about the Court decision. A copy of the legal document was published in the France media.

This last eviction in Paris drew the attention of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland, who warned the French authorities that such measures will do nothing to counter the social exclusion and prejudice that Roma face in France : “On the contrary, forced evictions can prove counter-productive as they often disrupt the schooling of Roma children and hamper the efforts of those who provide basic healthcare to Roma communities, for example through vaccination campaigns.” Jagland called on the French authorities “to provide all those who have been forced to leave the ‘Petite ceinture’ camp – including children and elderly people – with adequate, alternative accommodation, particularly as they have decided to take this action during winter.” 

According to the most recent field report published by the Ligue des droits de l’Homme and the ERRC, more than 11,000 Roma people were forcibly evicted by the authorities in France in 2015 alone.  This figure represents 60% of those who live in slums. From the 111 evictions executed by authorities, temporary shelter solutions were proposed in only 29 occasions. In the aftermath of the other 82 evictions, families were simply left in the street: a clear demonstration that the guidance set out in the Circular of 26th of August 2012 that evictions should be accompanied by rehousing and social support for the affected people is blatantly disregarded in the majority of cases.

Forced evictions are much more likely to happen when the slums are situated on public land. About 80% of the land where forced evictions were executed in 2015 was publicly owned land.  This gives lie to the excuse offered by the state that the purpose of this systematic policy of forced evictions is to defend private property. The French authorities are carrying out a policy which is discriminatory and counter-productive, causes undue suffering and hardship, and succeeds only to exacerbate anti-Roma prejudice and social exclusion.

The French authorities should heed international calls to halt forced evictions immediately. All through the winter such calls fell on deaf ears.  Evictions should not take place without providing adequate alternative accommodation for those forced out of their homes. There must be an end to punitive policies that cast the very young, the very old, the ill and the infirm out on the streets; and an end to policies that deliberately exclude Roma.

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