France - Romania

French police clear Roma camp in Evry near Paris

REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson

French police on Monday dismantled a Roma camp near Paris, where 70 people, including 19 children, were living.


The action comes just days after the government promised a fresh approach in its controversial handling of the ethnic minority migrants.

Police in Evry, on the outskirts of Paris, moved in at dawn to clear the camp following
an expulsion order issued by local mayor Francis Chouat on health and safety and grounds.

The move pre-empted by 24 hours a court hearing scheduled to examine the mayor's decision.

The government pledged last week that it would seek court orders for clearances but that requirement was over-ridden by the mayor's ruling that the camp's proximity to a commuter rail line made it dangerous.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who was until June himself the mayor of Evry, backed the move, describing conditions in the settlement as “intolerable”.

He has sanctioned the clearance of several Roma camps since the new Socialist government came to power.

An estimated 15,000 ethnic Roma currently live in similar camps across France and their presence, almost invariably the subject of hostility from local residents, has become a major political headache for the Socialists.

Valls has continued the previous administration's approach of periodically dismantling camps and offering free flights and financial incentives for Roma to return to their countries of origin.

But the policy, which was loudly condemned as reminiscent of Nazi-era persecution when used by former President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010, has had little impact on overall numbers.

Valls has come under fire from some of his own colleagues, human rights groups and the European Commission for pursuing a similar policy.

The interior minister believes France is paying the price for Romania's failure to address centuries of discrimination against the Roma.

"I want to understand why strong integration policies are not being implemented in the countries of origin," he said.



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