Thursday, February 13, 2014

Where is the Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

"They said: 'Everybody out; we're going to smash this camp.' They gave us half an hour to collect our things." 15 Roma families living in a wood outside Paris were no match for the 100-odd riot police deployed to evict them.

According to the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), 19,300 Roma people were evicted across France last year - more than double the 2012 figure. France has possibly one of the harshest policy in western Europe towards Roma immigrants. Most live in camps that are regularly demolished by police. Every year thousands are deported. Though many return they rarely succeed in putting down roots and then are accused of not assimilating. "They don't know from one minute to the next if they're going to get evicted," says Gabriela Hrabanova, of the European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network.

"They live in increasingly precarious living conditions that prevent them for integrating locally," says ethnologist Martin Olivera. "They are being maintained in a nomadic way of life they have not chosen."

 Schools reject Roma because local authorities are reluctant to recognise them as residents, says Francois Loret. Without official residency, they are not entitled to any social benefits beyond basic health care - and many struggle to secure even that. Guillaume Lardanchet of Hors La Rue, a Montreuil-based group that helps troubled immigrant children, agrees that Roma youths are sometimes involved in crime. This is hardly surprising as they are more likely to be on the street than in schools. he adds, the problem is often exaggerated "The overwhelming majority of Roma kids stay out of trouble," Mr Lardanchet says.

Many of the evicted Roma end up being deported - almost 11,000 Romanian nationals were deported from France last year, more than any other immigrant group. Being a citizen of a European Union country offers little protection as EU law allows a member country to expel people who are deemed a burden on its social system. Some think the prospects for France's Roma immigrants could improve with the end of the "transition regime" that restricted access to jobs for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens. As of 1 January, they have no longer needed a residency permit to work in France. But the regulations that give rise to the cycle of evictions and deportations remain in place.

From here

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