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25th Jun 2022

French Roma policy finds support among the far right

  • Jobbik leader Gabor Vona wants compulsory eduction for Roma children (Photo: Flickr)

France's policy of expelling Roma to Romania and Bulgaria has attracted a storm of criticism at home and abroad from human rights groups and churches but has found support among some far-right politicians.

Philip Claeys, one of two MEPs from the far-right Flemish party Vlaams Belang, said he wants to defend "French policy concerning Roma."

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"The dismantling of illegal camps, the struggle against petty crime, criminality and prostitution, and the expulsion of foreigners with no legal earnings are perfectly legitimate in a democratic constitutional state," said the Belgian euro-deputy in a statement Thursday (2 September).

Getting rid of the Roma camps puts an end to "public order disturbance," he continued.

France's own far-right National Front also agrees with the deportations. Its leader Jean-Marie Le Pen described the situation as "a problem caused by the European Union opening the borders between European countries."

The statements come in response to France's intention to destroy 300 Roma camps and send their occupants back to Romania and Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, the Irish Times reports that Hungary's far-right Jobbik party, which has three seats in the European Parliament and came third (with 17%) in the country's June elections, has unveiled an initiative calling for "anti-social" Roma in Hungary to be placed in special camps.

Jobbik leader Gabor Vona called for the compulsory education of Roma children in boarding schools while Jobbik MEP Csanad Szegedi said "public order zones" for gypsies deemed to be anti-social should be set up.

"We would force these families out of their dwellings. Then, yes, we would transport these families to public order protection camps," Mr Szegedi said.

"At these camps, there would be a chance to return to civilised society. Those who abandon crime, make sure their children attend school and participate in public works programmes, they can re-integrate," he added. Jobbik hopes to make big gains in October's local elections.

The situation of the Roma - the EU's largest ethnic minority - has been the subject of intense debate since France began its expulsions some four weeks ago.

It is part of a general security clampdown announced at the end of the July by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who for the first time also explicitly linked immigration and crime.

Beyond the far right, the expulsions policy has also found some sympathy among the eurosceptic right. British MEP Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party says that while what Mr Sarkozy is doing appears to "be a bit distasteful" his actions go to the "heart" of the relationship between member states and the EU.

"We accept that these people are badly discriminated in their own country, but from 2014 there will be no possibility for Sarkozy to send them home, because they will have total rights of movement, all the transitional arrangements will have ended," he said in a debate on Thursday hosted by EUobserver.

Paris' policy, which has seen almost 1,000 Roma returned and over 100 camps emptied, has been strongly criticised by human rights NGOs, a UN panel, the Catholic Church, and politicians across the spectrum in France for targetting a single ethnic group.

After weeks of silence, the European Commission on Thursday let it be known that it had doubts about the legality of the policy under EU freedom of movement rules.

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