EurActiv.com Correspondent's Choice

This story about President Sarkozy and the Roma was published by EurActiv on 29th July 2010.

The French left joined human rights groups and specialised organisations in criticising an anti-delinquency initiative launched by French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday (28 July), which is specifically targeted at the Roma community.

Sarkozy launched a new anti-crime initiative yesterday (28 July) targeting the “itinerant population,” with a particular emphasis on the Roma community.

Among the measures launched are plans to shut down around 300 illegal camps, expulsion from the country of all Roma from Romania and Bulgaria who have committed public offences, an exchange of policemen between France and Romania, and targeted checks by the fiscal authorities of Roma with expensive SUVs.

The move was announced after some 50 ‘travelling people’ (or gens du voyage as they are called in France) ransacked a police station and other property in Saint Aignan, Central France last week in protest at the death of a 22-year-old who was shot by police.

French human rights group Ligue des Droits de l’Homme issued a statement strongly condemning the stigmatisation of Roma people. It also criticised the “amalgamation” between French gens du voyage, who it said were French citizens living in caravans, and the 15,000 Roma present in France, who mainly originate from Romania and Bulgaria.

When Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, the French government denied their citizens access to France’s labour market as a transitory measure, the rights group recalls. Consequently, the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme says Roma immigrants from these two countries are reduced to living in slums as they are unable to work legally.

The French rights group called for the transitory measures to be lifted to grant Roma people access to the labour market, and wants the authorities to make use of existing mechanisms to improve their living conditions.

“It is essential for the government to stop confusing situations and acts with the origins of the persons concerned,” the statement concludes.

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