[Marxism] Hollande shuts down Roma camps

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 10 10:03:45 MDT 2012

NY Times August 9, 2012
French President Shuts Down Roma Camps and Seeks Relocation for Roma

PARIS — Despite criticism from Roma support groups and leftist 
politicians, President François Hollande’s Socialist government, 
following a policy adopted by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, is 
dismantling illegal travelers’ camps and rounding up Roma from Eastern 
Europe for repatriation.

In the latest raids, police officers on Thursday shut down Roma 
encampments in Villeneuve d’Ascq, near the northern city of Lille, 
leaving homeless about 150 people who had been living in trailers there.

Officials had been fielding complaints about the camps since 2010, and 
tensions had boiled over recently, with reports that a pistol had been 
fired in anger by a resident.

French television showed trucks towing away trailers, their erstwhile 
occupants sitting in the grass with their belongings or walking away 
with their baggage loaded in shopping carts.

“We’re dismayed,” Yann Lafolie, president of L’Atelier Solidaire, a Roma 
support organization, told Le Monde, adding: “There are many children 
who will be sleeping on the street tonight. Sarkozy never expelled us. 
In the end, it was the Socialists who did.”

The police action on Thursday against people known in French as “gens du 
voyage” follows similar raids in recent days on camps around Paris and 
Lyon. A charter plane flew 240 Roma, including children, back to 
Bucharest, Romania, from Lyon on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Following criticism in Paris on Wednesday, Interior Minister Manuel 
Valls insisted that the raids were carried out only after rigorous 
investigations, saying in a statement that the decision on evictions was 
often based on sanitary concerns. The presence of the ramshackle camps 
in working-class neighborhoods, he added, is a well-known source of 
tension between local residents and travelers.

Mr. Hollande has promised that the camps will be closed only when 
alternative housing is available, and Mr. Valls said Wednesday that 
officials had been instructed to concentrate on ensuring that families 
and the most vulnerable had lodging.

Mr. Sarkozy’s government was widely condemned in 2010 for expelling 
Roma, with some critics comparing France’s actions to those of its 
government in the Nazi occupation years. While the tough policy appealed 
to Mr. Sarkozy’s law-and-order voters and residents upset by the 
presence of the camps, both the European Union and the French Parliament 
were dismayed.

Viviane Reding, the European justice commissioner, said then it marked 
“a situation that I had thought that Europe would not have to witness 
again after the Second World War.”

A spokeswoman for Ms. Reding, Mina Andreeva, said Thursday that the 
situation today was different from that of two years ago, as “the French 
have addressed the commission’s concerns,” putting in place procedural 
rules to protect people from forced expulsions and, as long as people 
were returning home voluntarily, not conflicting with the principle of 
free movement in the European Union.

The government offers payments of $370 and free plane tickets as an 
incentive to those willing to go home, though some of those repatriated 
may take advantage of open borders to return to France.

The law provides for the deportation of people who overstay their visas. 
Because Bulgaria and Romania are not members of the Schengen agreement, 
allowing visa-free travel in Europe, citizens of those countries are 
entitled to a stay of only three months unless they are able to obtain 
more permanent status, for example, by getting work or education visas.

Members of Mr. Sarkozy’s center-right opposition party, the Union for a 
Popular Movement, praised the government’s stance. But Éric Coquerel, 
secretary of the Party of the Left, reproached Mr. Hollande.

“I’d prefer that the government put its effort into a policy against 
layoffs rather than following in the footsteps of its predecessor in 
pointing the finger, because it’s convenient, at the Roma,” Mr. Coquerel 
told BFM television.

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