Human Rights Watch slams France on Roma


France continues to target and evict Roma EU citizens, despite assurances from the European Commission last August that the country had successfully complied with European law, according to the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch.

Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch said: "One year and a new immigration law later, Roma in France are still vulnerable to serial evictions, unfair expulsions, and discrimination."

Last August, the European Commission claimed that it had "helped resolve 90% of open free movement cases," raised following France's controversial displacement of Roma camps, some of which included Romanian nationals protected by EU free movement laws.

The Commission had cleared France, saying that the French government adopted the legislative amendments required by the Commission to ensure compliance with the Free Movement Directive on 16 June, including the safeguards that protect EU citizens against arbitrary expulsions or discriminatory treatment.

Human Rights Watch details its allegations in a briefing paper submitted to the European Commission in July 2011. It claims: "Over the past six months, French authorities have continued to pursue a policy that targets Roma from Eastern Europe for camp or squat evictions associated with removal orders."

The group claims "thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma have been ordered to leave France under procedures that violate their rights".

Human Rights Watch goes on to accuse French courts of taking "an inconsistent approach to appeals against the orders" and the police of requiring "camp residents, many of whom do not read French, to sign pieces of paper without telling them what they said, and without leaving them a copy."

In September of last year, Commissioner for Justice and Fundamental Rights Viviane Reding threatened to take legal action against France for its treatment of the Roma, leading to extremely tense relations with Paris.

Reding responded in particular to an August 2010 administrative circular from the French Interior Ministry which ordered prefects to take "systematic action to dismantle illegal camps, priority given to those of Roma".

In April 2011, the French Council of State ruled that the August 2010 circular had unlawfully discriminated against Roma.


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