European Roma Rights Centre Releases France Country Report

03 April 2006

The European Roma Rights Centre, on 2 December 2005, announced the release of the Country Report Series publication "Always Somewhere Else: Anti-Gypsyism in France", a comprehensive report on the human rights situation of Gypsies, Travellers and Romani migrants in France.

Since 2003, the ERRC has been engaged in intensive monitoring on the situation of Gypsies, Travellers and Romani migrants in France. This research indicates that hundreds of thousands of Gypsies and Travellers are denied the right to 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. These 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.

Discrimination against Gypsies, Travellers and Roma hinders the ability of individuals to exercise rights as fundamental as the right to vote; due to specific racist legislation, many Gypsies are unable to vote under the same conditions as other French citizens. Many Gypsies and Travellers also need to carry specific circulation documents, and present these documents for regular visa by police or gendarmes. These persons risk penal sanctions, fines and imprisonment if they travel in the country without these documents or neglect to have these documents regularly renewed or updated. Discrimination frequently begins with first contact with the education system. A very high percentage of Traveller and Gypsy children receive no education, drop out before reaching the secondary level, and/or attend segregated schooling arrangements that provide only minimal education. Gypsies and Travellers all too often receive a substandard education, often not even equipping them with basic literacy skills.

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, several thousands of 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.

Public expressions of anti- Gypsyism are a regular and widespread feature of French public life. French officials, from Senators and Deputies to local mayors regularly propagate anti-Gypsyism, often to garner political capital. Portrayed as dirty and uncivilised criminals, social leeches and public nuisances, Gypsies, Travellers and Roma are singled out as a dangerous and unwanted subclass of French society.

Recent riots in France, primarily by excluded members of France's recent immigrant communities, have caused extensive attention to be paid in the media as well as in French policy circles, to the situation of immigrants in France. The situation of France's Gypsies, Travellers and Roma requires similar urgent attention if the promise of equality is to be realised for all. The full text of "Always Somewhere Else: Anti-Gypsyism in France", including a detailed series of recommendations to French authorities, is available in both French and English.



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