Tuesday

11th May 2021

Sarkozy targets Roma for explusion

  • A Roma encampment: the gypsy community is increasingly a target for politicians across Europe (Photo: Amnesty International)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday (28 July) announced his government is to order police to round up allegedly illegal migrants of Roma ethnicity for expulsion from French territory and destroy their encampments.

The announcement was the result of a cabinet meeting dedicated to the subject called after officers shot and killed a gypsy youth in the Loire Valley, provoking a riot by others of his community.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The new initiative will make it easier for authorities to expel migrants for "public order" offences.

Mr Sarkozy said that Roma encampments established illegally "will be systematically evacuated."

After the meeting, interior minister Brice Hortefeux announced the schedule of round-ups: "Within the next three months, half of the illegal camps will be dismantled - camps and squats - that is to say some 300."

Europe minister Pierre Lelouche accused "Roma crime" of climbing "140% each year in Paris since 2007."

The president's office put out a statement accusing the camps of being "sources of illegal trafficking, of profoundly shocking living standards, of exploitation of children for begging, of prostitution and crime".

He said that the rioters would be "severely punished".

Mr Sarkozy called the cabinet meeting after a crowd of ‘travelling people' - the French term for itinerants - attacked a police station with axes and set cars alight following the shooting by a gendarme of a young man who had driven through a police roadblock.

The president also suggested the government would like to bring Romanian and Bulgarian police to Paris and send French police to the two eastern European states to tackle the issue.

Many Roma communities hail from eastern Europe.

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday, Mr Lelouche pressed Romania to deal with the issue, but Romanian foreign minister Teodor Baconschi told reporters afterward that the subject was a European-level concern.

"We think that if this is a problem, it is a problem of the whole EU community and so we should develop very quickly skills and programmes on the level of the European Commission, to put some substance to the EU platform for social inclusion in terms of the Roma population," he said.

"This is not an issue to be dealt with at the bilateral level between Romania and France. This is clearly a European problem and we should use European skills to gradually solve it."

Roma representatives, who were not invited to attend the meeting, accuse the government of singling out a particular ethnicity.

"Today ... I am afraid we're preparing to open a blighted page in the history of France, which could sadly lead to acts of reprisal in the days ahead," lawyer Henri Braun told reporters at a press conference with Roma leaders, reports the Associated Press.

The French Human Rights League accused the president of racism, saying in a statement: "The president of the republic has stigmatised Roma and ‘travelling people' in a racist way, by creating an unacceptable amalgamation of a few individuals with entire communities, and announcing plans for ethnically targeted evictions of illegal settlements."

Ahead of the meeting, the government was was criticised by the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, who said: "urgent measures [are needed] to treat itinerants and the rest of the French population equally."

EU washes hands of French plans for Roma expulsions as tensions grow

The European Commission on Thursday said it is up to member states to decide whether they expel Roma people, but only on an individual basis and respecting the principle of "proportionality", in reaction to France's announcement it will dismantle 300 Roma camps within three months.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

LGBTI fears over new Polish member at EU institution

A letter sent to the European Economic and Social Committee by a group of cross-party MEPs fighting for LGBTi rights expresses fears that a recently-appointed Polish member may try to undermine those rights.

EU condemns Slovenian PM's harassment of journalist

Slovenia's populist prime minister Janez Janša attempted to discredit a Brussels reporter after she published a critical article about the state of media freedoms in the country. The European Commission condemned the PM's language - but refrained from naming him.

News in Brief

  1. Lukashenko amends emergency transfer of power
  2. German centre-left picks Scholz as would-be chancellor
  3. EU has not ordered AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June
  4. Macron: Pandemic showed need for more EU integration
  5. Election win fuels Scottish nationalists' referendum plan
  6. Surge in migrant arrivals to Italian island
  7. EU embassy pays bail for Georgia opposition leader
  8. British aristocrats caught peddling Kremlin ties

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU and US urge Israel to defuse Jerusalem violence
  2. Frontex 'mislabelling minors as adults' on Greek islands
  3. Has Albania really met the 15 tests to join the EU? No
  4. Vaccine fairness plus Russia on table This WEEK
  5. EU ambassadors flock to Red Square for Putin's parade
  6. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  7. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  8. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us