In a meeting chaired by President Sarkozy on Wednesday at the Elysee Palace, French authorities decided to take very drastic measures against ethnic Roma and nomads living on French soil, which will go as far as expelling them, without the right to ever return.
The French Minister of Interior, Brice Hortefeux announced Wednesday evening, at the end of a meeting on “the problems posed by the behaviour of some Roma and nomads,” that the ethnic Roma living in France illegally who infringed the laws on public order will be repatriated to Romania and Bulgaria and banished to return, due to the digital fingerprinting procedure. Within the next 3 months, French authorities will dismantle some 300 illegal camps, 200 of them populated by Roma. In a press release, the French Presidency explains the country will launch a wide-scale legal reform that will increase “the efficiency of evacuating illegal camps.” According to minister Hortefeux, two illegal camps will be dismantled each week, in Paris and in other regions of the country. Another measure ruled by President Sarkozy and his ministers is sending 10 tax inspectors to check the inhabitants of illegal camps or caravans. “Many of our fellow citizens have been surprised – and not without reason – to see what super-cars are used to draw these caravans, so we wonder where this money comes from,” Hortefeux said for RTL. Paris will also renew its proposal for Bucharest to send Romanian police officers to France and receive French officers to Romania. The French presidency also announced Immigration Minister Eric Besson and the state secretary for European Affairs, Pierre Lellouche will soon pay a visit to Romania, in order to negotiate the strengthening of bilateral cooperation with the purpose of stimulating the job opportunities and development projects aimed at the Roma population in their home country.”
French media quote a report made in the ‘90s, which found more than 400,000 nomads living in France – 95 pc of them being French and the remainder Roma. In 2009, France expelled more than 10,000 of them.
The Wednesday meeting, harshly criticised by the French left-wing, by associations representing the nomad and Roma population, as well as human rights militants, was chaired by Nicolas Sarkozy and attended by Prime Minister François Fillon and five members of his cabinet.
PM Emil Boc believes the way in which Bucharest authorities deal with the Roma problem does not affect the country’s joining Schengen area, and argues that Romania has a joint obligation, alongside all other European countries, in this respect.
Roma expulsion is an issue which falls within the competence of national authorities, who are free to decide in which way to apply legislation, Matthew Newman, a spokesperson for European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding, stated. He added that the Roma problem does not concern the community executive, but each and every government. National Liberal Party (PNL) MEP Renate Weber warned, in turn, that the measures announced by France amount to discrimination. “The destruction of camps they reside in is beginning to remind one of Berlusconi. As regards the idea that those who commit crimes will be expulsed at once, first and foremost, for this to apply, someone needs to establish that a crime was committed,” Weber stated for RFI Romania. Her fellow-MEP from the Democrat Liberal Party (PDL), Cristian Preda, stated, for ‘Libération,’ that punishing all Romanians by adjourning our country’s joining the Schengen area would be “absurd and ill-seen.”
Valeriu Nicolae, founder of the non-governmental organisation Roma Initiatives of the Open Society Institute and expert on Roma affairs at European level, thinks that the measures announced by the French minister of Internal Affairs are nothing but a political diversion. Social Democrat Party (PSD) Deputy Madalin Voicu stated that the measures announced by France have a Nazi and xenophobic ring, calling on President Traian Basescu, the Government and political bodies in Romania to react. He explained that he calls on the Romanian president and government to address this matter because he considers Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi “powerless” and “spineless.”