Always Somewhere Else: Anti-Gypsyism in France

Always Somewhere Else: Anti-Gypsyism in France

France is known as a country of human rights. "Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood" – these declarations remain at the heart of the French Republic. Despite these commitments, hundreds of thousands of Gypsies and Travellers in France are denied the very basic right of equal treatment and experience regular denial and interference with almost all fundamental civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. They have long been subjected to laws, policies and practices aimed at their control, repression, exclusion and assimilation, that affect almost all aspects of their daily life. 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.

Many Gypsies and Travellers are driven from municipality to municipality, unable to halt for more than very short periods at a time, before being subjected to the next forced eviction. Most of French territory seems, in fact, to be off limits for Gypsies and Travellers. Those areas available for settlement are often unhealthy, polluted and segregated areas well-hidden from the view of other residents. A great number of 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.

Likewise, the few thousand Romani migrants on French territory, are subjected to policies the basic aim of which is to make them leave France. They live in indecent slum conditions and find themselves repeatedly evicted from their precarious camps and squats, chased to the next municipality – from which they are in turn evicted. In addition, they are subjected to various forms of violence, abuse, harassment and neglect that result in extreme violations of their rights in almost all fields of life.

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