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UN slams France over Roma expulsions

Reuters/Robert Pratta

UN special rapporteurs have accused France’s Socialist government of fuelling racism against Roma with its recent clearances of travellers’ camps. A strongly worded statement issued Wednesday accused France of failing to live up to its commitments on international human rights conventions.

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“These evictions and expulsions are inevitably fuelling the already worrying climate of hostility against Roma in France,” special rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, said in a joint statement with other rapporteurs.

Four travellers’ camps, which were housed least 750 Roma, have been cleared this week, following several group evictions since the government was elected in June.

According to the UN statement an estimated 12 million Roma live in Europe. About 15,000 are believed to live in France.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls justifies the evictions on the grounds that the camps are a threat to their inhabitants’ health and can be dangerous because they are sometimes near roads or railway lines.

But “few if any visible efforts are being developed to find alternative solutions for these communities, such as improving housing conditions”, according to housing rapporteur Raquel Rolnik.

Collective expulsion is banned under international law, the statement argues, and it calls for “efforts to tackle marginalisation of Roma in the sphere of housing and employment and facilitating their social inclusion”.

Parliamentary elections 2012

The government has scrapped a tax on employing citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, the countries of origin of most of the Roma who have come to France since they joined the European Union.

But it has been criticised for continuing the policy of former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing government and the statement points out that there was international outcry when evictions and deportations took place in 2010.

“These reports are disturbing, especially because it is not the first time that Roma are collectively expelled from France,” said UN minority issues expert, Rita Izsák, who is of Hungarian Roma origin. “The Roma are European Union citizens and Europe’s most marginalised minority.

“Regrettably, these acts demonstrate that they do not always enjoy the same right of free movement and settlement, and continue to experience discriminatory treatment.”

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