Thousands of Roma ‘made homeless’ in France in 2016

More than six in 10 Roma families forcibly evicted as persecution against community rises, civil rights groups report.

People are evacuated from a Romani camp installed along La Petite Ceinture, an abandoned railroad line, in Paris
Up to 17,000 Roma live in makeshift camps across France [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]

More than 10,000 Roma were forcibly evicted by French authorities last year, with most ejections taking place during the cold winter months, according to a new report.

The European Roma Rights Centre and the Ligue des droits de L’Homme (Human Rights League of France) said on Tuesday that at least 60 percent of Romani families in the country were forced to leave their dwellings.

The majority of the recorded evictions took place without a court decision and, in most cases, adequate alternative accommodation was not offered to those made homeless, the groups said in a joint report.

“France’s policy of ethnically targeted evictions creates cycles of repeat evictions and forced removals,” the report said.

“It is also a significant squandering of financial and administrative resources. It is not only a morally bankrupt strategy, but one that is not in the best interests of taxpayers, whose contributions could far better be deployed to invest in social assessments and sustainable solutions for housing.”

OPINION: Why are Roma blamed for Europe’s rejection of refugees?

Almost 3,000 Roma were forced from their camps between October and December, a 17 percent increase from the previous quarter.

“Many Roma were evicted multiple times in 2016,” the report said. “This unsustainable practice only worsens deep poverty and neglects the underlying housing problems.”

Between 15,000 and 17,000 Roma live in poor conditions with little access to water and electricity in makeshift, illegal camps across France, according to the country’s national census and NGOs.

Authorities often cite sanitary reasons for dismantling the camps.

Catrinel Motoc, anti-discrimination campaigner for Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera: “We have repeatedly called on the French authorities … to put an end to forced evictions and take a series of measures that would enable Roma to benefit from their right to adequate housing and not to be discriminated [against], as guaranteed by numerous international and regional human rights obligations that France ratified.”

In June 2016, several organisations and agencies – including the Council of Europe and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – warned local authorities across the continent to provide Roma with “sustainable” housing, saying that children were at particular risk of trauma and social isolation because of evictions.

Soraya Post, human rights activist and Member of the European Parliament, told Al Jazeera: “Evictions of Roma are a clear violation of their human rights even if they are evicted from illegal settlements, as long as they are not offered any alternative. This [is] according to a decision in the European court of law. Sadly this is how Europe has always treated my people.”

Racist attacks

In addition to being made homeless, Roma often face discrimination.

“Many incidents of hate speech and cases of discrimination against Romani people were reported,” the groups said, which confirmed the need for policy “to address the plight of a stigmatised and deeply impoverished population to ensure … equal access to basic services”.

Tuesday’s report highlighted several racist attacks, including one in December against Jewish and Roma at the Anne Frank nursery school in an eastern suburb of Paris, Montreuil.

In an act of vandalism, “Juden verboten” (Jews forbidden) and “Sales Juifs et Roms” (Filthy Jewish and Romani people), were found painted on the front gate of the Anne Frank nursery, the report noted.

Between 10 and 12 million Roma are estimated to live in Europe, with most in eastern parts of the continent.

With ancestral roots in India, the Roma migrated to eastern Europe in the 10th century and have been persecuted throughout history.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and the break-up of Yugoslavia, many travelled west, seeking to escape poverty and discrimination.

In 2010, the European Union criticised France over a crackdown on illegal Roma camps launched by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In the same year, thousands of Roma were deported to Romania and Bulgaria from France.

Follow Anealla on Twitter: @anealla


Source: Al Jazeera