The French authorities must immediately stop forced evictions affecting several thousand migrant Roma each year across the country – this is what human rights group Amnesty International has to say about France’s apparently ongoing policy of forcibly evicting Roma communities. Almost all the Roma communities involved are of Romanian origin, with only a few from Bulgaria or elsewhere.
The rhetoric from the French authorities has improved and less openly singles out one ethnic group for persecution, but the practice of forced eviction remains largely unchanged, according to Amnesty. “Its [The new French government] tone and approach have improved, relative to previous years in which Roma were often openly stigmatized by the government. However the practice of forced evictions has continued at the same alarming rate as before” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
Amnesty’s figures suggest that most of an estimated 15,000 migrant Roma currently in France come from Romania. Interplay between French and European legislation and political appearances gives a net result of people being driven from their dwellings against their will without the offer alternative accommodation. It all adds up to France failing to meet international standards on human rights, according to Amnesty.
As non-French EU citizens, Romanian Roma cannot stay in France for more than three months unless they have work or can prove sufficient means to support themselves. Added to this national legislation are the EU transitional controls on Romania that run until December 2013, which further prevent all Romanians accessing France’s services, job market and, ultimately, rights.
Amnesty paints a picture of cyclical despair and poverty: Roma living in temporary camps are driven away with no prior notice. Possessions and official documents are lost, as the authorities do not allow camp residents to retrieve belongings. With no other option, unless deported to Romania, Roma soon end up in another makeshift camp under the constant threat of eviction, unsanitary conditions, no running water, no healthcare provision, no education and no hope of being granted the little support and few basic human rights necessary to build a life.
According to Amnesty, the new Hollande administration is working with NGOs, including Amnesty, to find solutions and France is drawing up an national plan for access to housing or emergency accommodation for everyone who needs it. “Under international law France is obliged to guarantee the right to adequate housing without discrimination and to prevent forced evictions. This means that the French authorities must immediately stop all evictions until all the international human rights safeguards can be guaranteed to all inhabitants of informal settlements,” said Amnesty’s John Dalhuisen. But, in the meantime, the evictions continue.
Find out more on Roma evictions in France from Amnesty and read the full report Chased Away:Forced evictions of Roma in Ile-de-France.
Liam Lever, firstname.lastname@example.org
(photo source: Amnesty International)