[Brussels, 17 August 2012] The French authorities are once again under fire from rights organisations following renewed moved to dismantle Roma camps this week. The EWL firmly condemns these discriminatory measures and calls upon France to fulfill its obligations towards the Roma community, in line with the EU treaties and the European Social Charter.
Yesterday (12 August), French Interior Minister Manuel Valls declared that the government would consider lifting working restrictions for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals during a meeting next week. France is actually one of nine EU countries that still require Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to have a work permit. This measure, which was welcomed by European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding, is an absolute pre-requisite to Roma inclusion. Yet the recent dismantlements of Roma camps by the French government show that Romani rights are still flouted in France.
Earlier this week, police evicted hundreds of Romani migrants from ‘illegal’ camps and sent several of them back to Romania via a charter plane, providing them with 300 euros compensation for their ‘voluntary return’. The new Socialist government was immediately accused by Roma associations of perpetuating the discriminatory methods of its center-right predecessor.
Several Member States along with France have taken abusive measures in the past targeting the Roma community. These include Denmark, Italy and Germany. These forced expulsions are feeding an increasingly stigmatising discourse throughout the European Union, preventing the inclusion of the Roma community. Romani women are especially vulnerable to these policies, which deprive them of access to health-care services such as family planning and natal care, the labour market or education. Several cases of forced sterilisation in Eastern Europe have also been been brought to the European Court of Human Rights (see article here).
In 2010, the EWL expressed its concerns over repeated forced evictions(see article here) and issued a statement calling for more European and national actions to ensure that the fundamental rights of Romani women, men and children living in Europe are fully respected. Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding also openly criticised the policy of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and threatened legal action. Finally, the Council of Europe’s independent Human Rights body monitoring problems of racism and intolerance (ECRI), issued a statement condemning the treatment of Roma migrants in France. This year, however, the Commission seems to be much less vocal, having only reaffirmed in a statement that the EU would closely monitor French expulsions of Roma.
The EWL will issue a Position Paper on Roma women this autumn.