Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

France Dismantles Camps, Deports Gypsies

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

France Dismantles Camps, Deports Gypsies

Article excerpt

Unlike former President Sarkozy's virulent anti-immigrant media campaigns, the new Socialist government says it is motivated by health, sanitation, and security.

The Socialist government of Francois Hollande this week ordered the dismantling of Gypsy camps around the country, leaving 150 people homeless, and deporting 240 Gypsies, also called Roma, to Romania.

The forceable action against foreign-born Roma from East Europe, who are known here as "travelers," is coming under attack as the same policy conducted by Mr. Hollande's predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, which EU officials at the time compared to Nazi-era tactics.

Yesterday camps of some 350 Roma were taken apart in Lille, near the border of Belgium, following similar police actions in Lyon and Paris earlier in the week.

Hollande vowed in his presidential campaign not to dismantle Roma camps without finding proper housing for families. Yet the new Socialist president is relying on mayors in local prefectures to find that housing, with mixed results.

In the summer of 2010 France earned a firestorm of approbation for roundups of Roma. EU justice minister Viviane Reding said she was "shocked" at police targeting a vulnerable minority and opened a legal challenge against France on grounds of racism and discrimination.

"This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War," she said at the time. Vichy France collaborated with Nazi roundups of Jews and Gypsies in the early 1940s.

This week French interior minister Manuel Valls explained the Socialists were dismantling camps for health and sanitation reasons, and implied security problems in neighborhoods where Roma have chosen to locate their camps.

This approach is strikingly different from the the that of the French government in 2010, where Mr. Sarkozy appeared to make a public spectacle of Roma as an ethnic group, as part of a larger anti-immigrant media campaign with electric speeches, designed to attract right-leaning French mainstream voters.

Hollande, by contrast, has made no speeches this summer or initiated high-profile public approbation about foreigners or Roma. …

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