The mayor of a small French town has broken a 2005 law obliging communities to welcome gypsy camps by digging ditches around municipal land to prevent the arrival of caravans.
The defences, which consist of twelve ditches with piled earth scarps, were excavated at a cost of €28,000 in anticipation of traveller convoys attempting to get up camp on town land. Despite the near-famous unpopularity of gypsy camps in many French communities, the earthworks have proved controversial. Opposition politicians in the town complain the digging commenced on the mayor’s orders without the proposal having been discussed beforehand. TheLocal.fr reports the comments of left-wing opposition spokesman Martine Demande who called the defences “quite shocking”.
In a nod to the French proclivity for protectionism, she complains that not only are the ditches expensive, they weren’t even dug by a local contractor.
Presumably aware of the controversy he created by ordering the defences, the mayor has refused to comment, remarking to Le Figaro that “the subject of travellers is a very complex one, and I do not wish to pour oil on the fire”.
Trouble for the mayor may be coming, however. A 2005 French law guaranteeing an enforceable right to housing requires all settlements of 5,000 or more to set aside land for gypsy camps. By barricading all land held by the town, the mayor is contravening the law – but there may yet be a loophole.
Despite the fact the act is hard to enforce, it also gives provision for towns to establish ‘passage areas’ for gypsies rather than what the law terms as ‘reception areas’. Although the amount of land that has to be turned over for traveller use has to be greater, it can be significantly further away from the town itself, and requires less infrastructure to be legal.
Breitbart London has before reported on the unusual lengths European mayors have gone to in order to deal with what they perceive to be the threat from Gypsy encampments. A mayor in Turin, Italy, last year proposed a separate bus route for gypsies after a traveller camp was set up next to a bus stop on a major route into the city.
After drivers and fellow passengers were attacked, sometimes quite savagely, the mayor called for “Two lines, one for us and one for them… It’s not racism, it’s just a way to solve a problem that has gone on for too long”.
Follow Oliver Lane on Twitter: Follow @Oliver_Lane or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org