Friday, August 27, 2010

France / Roma

Rights Panel Criticizes France Over Roma Policy
By Marlise Simons
The New York Times, August 27, 2010
"A United Nations-backed committee of experts sharply criticized France on Friday for deporting large groups of Roma and said the government in Paris should do more to combat what it called a growing racist and xenophobic tone in the country’s public debate. The 18-member committee, which issues periodic reports on racial discrimination around the world, prepared its findings on France coincidentally against a backdrop of passionate debate there over the government's moves against foreign-born Roma, also known as Gypsies. In response to the criticism, France said on Friday that it 'scrupulously' respects European law and its international obligations. On instructions from President Nicolas Sarkozy, French police have been dismantling improvised Roma camps in recent weeks and deporting Roma groups to Bulgaria and Romania. The French government said that all those flown back to the Balkans were part of a voluntary repatriation scheme and had accepted payments equivalent to about $380 per adult and $120 per child. However the report issued here on Friday questioned that assertion , saying that 'not all individuals' had given 'their free and full consent' or understood their rights. It urged France 'specifically to avoid collective repatriation' and instead seek permanent solutions for the welfare of the Roma, ensuring that 'they have access to education, health services, housing and other temporary infrastructure.' France has said it has already expelled more than 8,500 Roma this year. More were put on planes this week as the committee finalized its report.
'Our concern is that a government should not lump an entire group together and deal with them collectively but act on the basis of individuals,' said Pierre-Richard Prosper, a former United States ambassador for war crimes-related issues and the group’s rapporteur. He said France had not been singled out for criticism among the 11 countries whose reports were published on Friday. 'The timing was especially bad for France because the report is coming out as the Roma events are in the news,' Mr. Prosper said in an interview. 'But the Roma question is a moment in time. The bigger issue in France is the growing racist and xenophobic tone in political discourse and the fact that earlier immigrants do not feel fully accepted and do not get equal chances in French society.' [...]"

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