Thursday

22nd Feb 2024

Roma under fire in French election campaign

  • French presidential campaign steps up rhetoric against irregular migrants. (Photo: Magne Haagen)

Another 100 hundred days and the French presidential campaign will come to a head. Never far away from the political disputes among the top contenders is immigration. And the Roma, along with irregular migrants, are once again centre stage.

On Tuesday (10 January), France's interior minister Claude Gueant boasted to reporters France had surpassed its deportation quota for 2010 by 4,000.

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Around 32,000 people were forced to leave last year. Among them were a couple thousand Roma, rounded up and shipped primarily to Romania and Bulgaria.

The Roma round-up drew fire from the United Nations and EU justice and fundamental rights commissioner Viviane Reding - "Discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or race has no place in Europe," she said at the time.

France, however, is quietly continuing its deportation policy of the disenfranchised EU citizens.

President Sarkozy's hard-line against one of Europe's most maltreated minorities appeals to the sensibilities of the country's far right voters.

Socialist contender Francois Hollande's poll lead in the presidential elections has dropped from around 35 percent in December to 27 percent, just four points ahead of Sarkozy. Always a menace, Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate is at a steady 17 percent.

Along with Gueant, Sarkozy decided last year to ban begging throughout the more affluent Parisian neighbourhoods. The ban was supposed to end this January. It has since been extended to the summer, reports The Guardian newspaper.

Paris' socialist mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, called the ban a PR stunt designed to stigmatise a part of the population.

Sarkozy has also promised to stamp out illegal Roma camps and deport them. He also drew a direct correlation between crime and immigration.

Most of France's 15,000 Roma eek out desperate lives in the Paris and Marseille outskirts. At the Paris North Station, Romanian police officers stroll the tarmacs alongside their French counter-parts. In Marseille, some entire Roma families live on the streets. Elsewhere, Roma camps are being bulldozed with no alternative shelter given.

Many are turned away from homeless shelters and denied access to basic medical attention, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres.

"The situation of the Roma in Marseille is desperate," Jean Francois Corty, the director of the NGO's French mission told this website, adding that the French government is prioritising security over public health.

France, along with all other EU states, has agreed to set up an EU framework designed to facilitate Roma access to education, employment, health care, housing and basic related services.

"There is a real violence against the Roma in France," continued Corty.

"The political class do not consider the impact of their actions on the public health. The access to public health care is severely restricted not only to the Roma but also to immigrants without papers. It has made their lives unbearable."

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