French President, Prime Minister condemn attack on Roma teenager


A Romanian16-year-old from a Roma camp in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine was allegedly locked in a cellar where he was violently beaten, after he was accused by locals of burglary.

French President Francois Hollande has condemned a lynch mob attack which left a Romanian Roma (Gypsy) teenager badly injured on a Paris housing estate. A mob took the 16-year-old from a Roma camp in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine on Friday after he was accused by locals of burglary, a police source said, as quoted by BBC. Found dumped in a supermarket trolley, the victim is in a critical condition. The 200 or so people in the camp fled the area the same evening, according to ‘Le Parisien’ newspaper. President Hollande said the attack was “unspeakable and unjustifiable”, and he wanted “everything done” to find the attackers. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the judicial police had been mobilised to investigate the attack. Nobody has been detained so far in this case.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls also “strongly condemned the assault committed on the young boy,” as cited by an online edition of Le Monde. Valls has asked that “those responsible for this unspeakable act be found as soon as possible and held accountable before the law.”

“Every time such violence is unleashed in France, the rule of law suffers. The French Republic owes protection to all, regardless of their place of residence or origin,” Stephane Troussel, president of the Seine-Saint-Denis General Council, stated in turn, describing the crime as “a horrifying act of aggression under the guise of settling a score.”

The teenager, named by ‘Le Monde’ newspaper as Darius, had been living with his family in the makeshift camp close to the Cite des Poetes housing estate. Accused of a burglary a few hours earlier, he was taken from the camp, reportedly by masked men, and allegedly locked in a cellar where he was violently beaten. It was the boy’s mother who alerted police. According to doctors, his life is now in danger and he has been put in a “medically induced coma”. The mayor of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine said the boy had been questioned by police several times this month in connection with a string of robberies in the housing estate. It had fuelled the anger towards the Roma who arrived three weeks ago. Following the attack, Roma people in the camp fled “with what they could carry on foot, by tram or by car”, a local Romanian garage owner told Le Parisien.

The presence in France of thousands of Roma people from Eastern Europe has been a hot political issue since the summer of 2010 when the conservative president of the day, Nicolas Sarkozy, called for the removal of their illegal camps, saying they were rife with crime. Since coming to power in 2012, the Socialists have stepped up the policy of camp clearances, and France has also continued to deport thousands of foreign camp-dwellers every year, mainly to Romania. Human rights organisations have warned against a rise in violence against the Roma in France, where they are often accused of being behind a rise in petty crime.

On the other hand, the representatives of organisations for the protection of Roma rights have drawn attention to the rising levels of violence against the Roma. According to SOS Racisme, “this dangerous call to action denotes the alarming degradation of the image of Roma citizens or citizens who are viewed as Roma in our society, and have led to tensions on the part of our citizens.” “We expect a radical shift in discourse and a very clear condemnation of violence,” Benjamin Abtan, the president of European anti-racist movement EGAM, stated.

The Norwegian parliament on Monday began debating controversial anti-begging legislation that critics say targets the country’s Roma minority, “The Local” informs.

The proposal by the minority right-wing government, which is expected to pass and become law on Friday, would allow local authorities to ban begging from the start of summer. An outright national ban would take effect at the start of 2015, as agreed by the two-party  governing coalition and a centrist opposition group, which together form a majority in parliament. Those found guilty of begging in municipalities where the ban is enforced would face fines and up to three months in prison.

Roma immigrants from Romania are expected to be the most affected by the new law. Out of 194 beggars that the justice ministry identified in Oslo in 2012, just seven were Norwegian nationals, while the others were mainly Romanian citizens. The vast majority of identified Romanian beggars had a criminal record in Norway, the justice ministry said.

 

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