Friday

22nd Jun 2018

French minister's anti-Roma remarks draw EU criticism

  • Top French minister says majority of Roma do not belong in France (Photo: Council of Europe)

Comments by France’s interior minister to send the majority of Roma “back to the borders” have drawn sharp criticism from human rights groups and the European Commission.

The minister, Manuel Valls, told French media on Wednesday (25 September) that France is not “there to welcome these populations."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

He said the Roma should return to their home countries to assimilate there instead.

He made similar comments earlier on Tuesday when he told French radio “these populations have lifestyles that are very different from ours, and are clearly in confrontation [with the French way of life].”

The French campaign to evict Roma from their makeshift camps recently reached an historic high, says Amnesty International, a British-based NGO.

An estimated 20,000 Roma currently live in France, with a quarter of the population located near the cities of Lille and Lyon.

France evicted some 10,000 of them during the first half of 2013.

“France makes no provisions for effective protection against forced evictions. In most cases they take place in a climate of hostility with no alternative housing proposed,” Amnesty's John Dalhuisen said.

The rights group said the evictions should be banned.

A 26-year old mother of four, who has experienced 15 evictions in her 10 years in France, told the NGO last week she may be forced to live in the streets unless alternative housing is provided.

“If they cannot do anything to help us, then why don’t they let us stay here? [in the camp]” she said.

Amnesty says French President Francois Hollande’s promise to improve the lives of the Roma has not materialised.

Valls' anti-Roma rhetoric comes in the lead up to French municipal elections next March.

For her part, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding told the France-Info radio station also on Wednesday that the Roma-bashing is political.

“There's an election in the air in France. Every time they don't want to talk about important things like the budget or debts, they find the Roma,” she said.

Most Roma in France trace their origins back to Romania or Bulgaria.

Under EU law, nationals from both member states are free to travel and move around the Union.

They also have the right to live in any member state, but must sustain themselves financially after three months.

European Commission spokesperson Oliver Bailly told reporters in Brussels the fact that Bulgaria and Romania are not part of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone does not mean their citizens have fewer rights.

“The only restriction they are attributed to are border controls at the Schengen borders which is the same thing that happens to UK citizens,” he said.

Labour restrictions imposed on Romania and Bulgaria by eight member states will also be lifted on 1 January 2014.

Bailly said the free movement of European citizens and the freedom to choose one’s country of residence in the EU is a fundamental right.

“It doesn’t matter if you are Roma or French,” he said.

Investigation

UK unlawfully copying data from EU police system

The British government is abusing EU travel security systems, making and using illegal copies of outdated information, and putting innocent people at risk of being red-flagged.

GDPR - a global 'gold standard'?

The new EU privacy rules are touted as a global 'gold standard' - but Mexico's former data commissioner warns some nations are far from ready.

Feature

EU and Turkey fight for 'lost generation'

Some 300,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey are not enrolled in classes. Fears they may end up in sweatshops or forced to beg have triggered efforts by the EU, Unicef, and the Turkish government to keep them in school.

News in Brief

  1. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  2. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  3. EU closes deficit procedure against France
  4. Romania's ruling party leader gets jail sentence
  5. EU states defer individual decisions on asylum reforms
  6. Commission opens case on Qatar gas flow
  7. EU adopts posted workers directive
  8. EU leaders to call for 'coordinated plan' on AI

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Latest News

  1. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  2. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  3. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  4. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  5. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'
  6. How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1trn pension fund
  7. Commission defends Africa migrant plan ahead of summit
  8. Bavaria hijacks EU migration talks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us