France Takes Very Strong Pill Against Roma Headache

Yesterday, the first group of Bulgarian and Romanian gypsies residing on the territory of France illegally was deported to their homelands.

Deportation of the gypsies is based on the decision taken in late July by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Based on the information that nearly 200 camps of gypsies who arrived from Bulgaria and Romania are the hotbeds of drug trafficking, child begging, prostitution and unsanitary conditions, he decided to shut them down and deport their residents.

And now the first 79 Roma will be put on a plane to Bucharest. They will receive “deportation aid” in the amount of 300 Euros. It is assumed that at the end of this month 700 illegals would leave France.

It must be said that the decision to evict the Bulgarian and Romanian Gypsies was seen in Europe as controversial. In France itself, representatives of opposition parties (the Socialists, the Greens, and the Communists) are critical about the measures. They believe that Sarkozy and his right-wing party the Union for a Popular Movement (SNM) is trying to raise their rating by playing on nationalist sentiments, and therefore is trying to present the Gypsies as criminals.

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The actions of the French authorities caused frustration of Romania. Foreign Minister of this country Theodore Bakonesku appealed to the leadership of France to refrain from “artificial election fever” in the gypsy issue. “I am concerned about the possibility of popular discontent, which could develop into a xenophobic reaction on the background of the economic crisis,” said the minister.

Unlike Romania, the authorities of Bulgaria that also has to take their own Gypsies back remain silent. Local human rights activists are doing all the work. They believe it is wrong to evict members of one nationality.

The EU also spoke in defense of Gypsies camps. A spokesman for European Commissioner for Justice and Human Rights Viviane Reding made it clear that France was “obliged to comply with the rules of freedom of movement and resettlement of citizens of the EU countries.” The European Commission pledged to observe the implementation of the decision by the French leadership.

If we look at the issue from a formal point of view, we will see that the leadership of France does not violate human rights. The decision does not say that the eviction is based on nationality. The French law does not provide for such types of settlements as gypsy camps. Their unauthorized appearance somewhere in the open field or under the Parisian bridges is a violation of local rules.

There are other reasons as well. Although Bulgaria and Romania are a part of the EU, they are not a part of the Schengen zone that allows citizens of its member countries free and unrestricted movement within the greater part of the EU. And if so, Bulgarian and Romanian Gypsies may stay in France without a job and health insurance only three months. After that they are subject to deportation .

It is worth mentioning that the practice of eviction of Bulgarian and Romanian Gypsies has been in place in France (and other Western European countries) for many years. Last year alone, the French deported 10,000 aliens from the south-east Europe, buying them tickets for 24 flights to Sofia and Bucharest with state money. However, it was done without fanfare. But now, when polls showed Sarkozy's popularity ratings have declined, the deportation was carried out publicly.

Gypsy issue is really acute for France. Trying to resolve the issue with encampments, the government equips special grounds for them. But there is not enough room for everyone, and Gypsies continue to settle down wherever they can. Without a permanent source of income, the residents of slum encampments become easy prey for the criminal world, they are sucked into drug trade and prostitution.

Western Europe (including France) has programs aimed at integrating Gypsies into society. They have brought some results. Thousands of French Gypsies moved into ordinary houses and apartments and started going to work and study.

However, Bulgaria and Romania are home to hundreds of thousands of Gypsies (in Romania the number is far greater than a million), and cannot boast similar success. Their gypsies continue to engage in illegal activities. Having received the opportunity to get into France without a visa, they took advantage of it, which caused great headaches for local authorities.

With all the objective pros in favor of the French decision, there is an unpleasant historical analogy. Gypsies along with Jews were among those peoples whom the Nazis intended to fully destroy in gas chambers. And, as if atoning the sins of Hitler, the EU countries closely monitor that Europe does not re-start anti-Gypsies campaign. Although formally France is just fighting with encampments, the victims of police measures are almost all representatives of this people.

Combination of respect for national rights and the struggle for the observance of the law is a serious puzzle not only for France but for the entire EU.

Vadim Trukhachev

Read the original in Russian

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov