By Tristan Simoneau
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
Photo: A gypsy camp in Vaulx en Velin, east of Lyon. [Source: AFP]
PARIS, France – On Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered authorities to expel Gypsy illegal immigrants and dismantle their camps. This announcement comes after last week’s riot in the town of Saint Aignan where dozens of Gypsies armed with crude weapons attacked a police station and burned cars after police shot dead a Gypsy during a car chase. In response to the violence in Saint Aignan, Sarkozy stated that some members of the migrating minorities pose security “problems.”
Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said that 300 illegal camps housing Gypsies would be shut down and foreign Gypsies violating the law would be immediately deported to their “home” nations. Hortefeux stated that “tax inspectors will be sent to inspect the households of the inhabitants of these illicit and illegal camps.” He also insisted that Wednesday’s measures “are not meant to stigmatize any community, regardless of who they are, but to punish illegal behavior.”
Sarkozy has pushed for a change in France’s immigration law to make such expulsion easier “for reasons of public order.” He has stated that illegal Gypsy camps “will be systematically evacuated,” calling them sources of trafficking, exploitation of children and prostitution.
Sarkozy’s new “war on crime” was also spurred by separate riots, not linked to the Gypsy minority, in a poor suburb of Grenoble, southeastern France. The Gypsy Rights Association responded by saying, “as happens too often in history, Gypsies are once more being made scapegoats by a ruling class tangled up in political and financial scandals.” During World War II approximately 1 million Gypsies were rounded up throughout Europe and executed. The Association also warned that legal action will be taken for incitement to racial hatred.
Many gypsies live in slums in suburbs such as Aubervilliers on the outskirts of Paris. There are two main Gypsy populations in France. The firs, called “traveling folk”, which include several hundred thousand French citizens who have lived in France for centuries, and were traditionally nomadic. The second is made up of recent immigrants who come mostly from Eastern European countries like Romania and Bulgaria, usually illegally, and are often seen begging on the streets of French cities. Sarkozy’s recent orders targeted the second group, though the violence in Saint Aignan was in a community of “traveling folk” established in the region for years.
For more information, please see:
THE CONNEXION – Crackdown on gypsy camps for 3 months – 29 July 2010
DAILY MAIL – Sarkozy accused of racism for ordering closure of 300 illegal gypsy camps and expulsion of Roma after riot – 29 July 2010
AFP – France vows to tear down Gypsy camps – 28 July 2010
CBS NEWS – France’s Sarkozy Orders Illegal Gypsies Expelled – 28 July 2010