Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

Struggles in the Representations of Roma Immigrants in the North of France: From Migration Management to Public Discourse

Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

Struggles in the Representations of Roma Immigrants in the North of France: From Migration Management to Public Discourse

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT.

In this article we seek to unveil the intricacies of Roma migration in the north of France and the shift in the public discourse calling for the protection of human rights. In the first part of the article, we will establish the general framework for the migration of the Roma population in the region of Lille, France and Romanians' perception regarding this matter. In this paper, we attempt to present, in a concrete manner, how the faults in the management of immigration and politics have influenced the alleged relationship between ethnicity and crime, taking into account concepts such as Roma population exclusion, poverty and marginalisation at home and abroad. Moreover, we will show the important changes presented by the public opinion, taking into consideration several highly publicized events that cast a shadow upon the situation of the Roma population in the region. After the Romanian integration in the European Union, the issue of the Roma people has been discussed by the media from all parts of the continent, sliding from a tone of disapproval to proclaiming the need to take political measures. The migration of Roma Romanians in the north of France is a result of an influx of immigrants that grew in the last five years. The dramatic changes happened, especially after 2007, and were followed by a stabilization of migration flows after Romania joined the European Union. As expected, the latest statistics on Romanian immigrants into the French community continue to indicate their important presence in the region.

Keywords: migration; public discourse; criminality; Roma

1. Introduction

It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the Roma problem in Europe. After the overthrow of the communist regime in 1989, the situation of the Roma was marked by profound changes, racial hatred, violence and discrimination in a cultural environment. The Romanian revolution has played an important role in the further marginalization of Romanian Roma which has also had important economic and legal consequences. Firstly, the Roma people are officially recognized as an ethnic group in Romania and the officials are beginning to address the specific problems of this population. In parallel with the administrative measures adopted by state and non-governmental organizations, the French authorities implemented new policy targeting the integration of the Roma population. Thus, we can witness a redefinition of Roma identity in line with the new political and social agenda as well as a civic and political mobilization of this population, specific phenomena in the entire central and Eastern European space.1

In positivist criminology, cultural and ethnic variables should be taken into account for variations in crime levels in the same way as sex, age, or socioeconomic status.2 In cultural anthropology, these concepts are defined as cultural heritage passed down to future generations. It is not surprising that ethnicity among immigrants was simply presented as a reproduction of a culture in a new territory. National Public policies for crime prevention do not focus on this topic, but foreign criminologists are trying to understand how race and ethnicity are related to violence, taking into account poverty, segregation, migration and cultural and historical experiences.3 Indeed, given the scarcity of systematic studies that focused on Roma people, cultural capital and systemic marginalization, the nature of relationships between these factors is shaping the recent hypothesis that ethnic reputation is crucial to understanding and preventing crime. Modernization theories have predicted or implicitly stated that relations between the status of individuals and groups could, in the future, be based more on criteria requiring classification, such as ethnicity and race, than on universally applied ones, such as the rational exchange and skills.

The purpose of this paper is to address the problems of Roma crime, especially the causes and the public perception of this phenomenon. …

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