PARIS, Sept. 27 (UPI) — The latest French government crackdown on the Roma communities in France has drawn protests from rights advocacy groups but not from the European Union itself, which is usually quick on the draw over any human rights controversies outside the EU.
In the most widely reported incident this week police dismantled a Roma settlement in the northern French town of Roubaix. Rights advocacy groups say police patrols routinely harass Roma families, often without provocation.
There was no immediate confirmation of material losses suffered by the displaced Roma families.
The police action against Roma mobile homes on wheels came after Interior Minister Manuel Valls drew criticism for his calls for all Roma to be expelled to East European countries, home to thousands of Roma families.
Valls earlier urged those countries including Bulgaria and Romania to deny Roma citizens EU passports to prevent them from moving freely within the EU. All Roma are native Europeans, wrongly defined as “gypsy” — a word founded on the mistaken belief their ancestors migrated from Egypt to Europe. Most accounts suggest the Roma originated in India between the 6th and 11th centuries.
At least 10,000 Roma were displaced by French police action in the first half of 2013, Amnesty International said. Thousands of children who enrolled in local schools were deprived of education, local advocacy groups say. Roma men who lost their livelihood in the forced displacement were denied help usually offered European citizens.
France isn’t alone in denying European Roma communities constitutional rights, other EU members routinely place similar curbs on the Roma. Campaigners say the socialist government of President Francois Hollande is quick to pinpoint human rights issues outside Europe but justifies its crackdown on the Roma because they are “different.”
Few Roma could ever integrate into French society, said Valls, an ethnic Catalan from Spain, echoing comments made earlier by other European politicians in and out of power.
The Roma are widely believed to have South Asian ancestry and were persecuted alongside Jews and other minorities under Nazi Germany. Up to half a million Roma were murdered in Nazi death camps, an event commemorated by present-day Roma as Porajmos or the “Devouring.”
Rights groups in India have protested to the Czech Republic over its treatment of its Roma citizens.
European crackdowns on Roma communities are endemic. Each time they draw a reproof from Brussels and threat of litigation against Paris. The EU issues similar reprimands every now and then to East European member countries over their mistreatment of Roma citizens.
After an earlier series of French expulsions of Roma communities under former President Nicolas Sarkozy the EU threatened to take legal action against Paris but, crucially, didn’t.
Campaigners say many Roma families have given up children for adoption with the hope of giving them better lives than they have experienced in post-war Europe, despite the horrors of Nazi German persecution of their ancestors in the Second World War.