4th Feb 2023

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.


Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters

The ECHR ruled that Russia was in "effective control" of separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine from 11 May 2014. In doing so, the court has formally acknowledged the inter-state character of the conflict and Russia's culpability for human rights abuses.


Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency

The director of Amnesty International Greece on the political spying scandal that now threatens to bring down prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Activists and NGO staff work with the constant fear that they are being spied on.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us