Defend our Roma! No more concentration camps…

New expulsions hit people without a place…

Roma gypsies are routinely described as Europe’s largest ethnic minority. Numbering between 10 and 16 million, their combined population exceeds that of many European Union countries. Yet their numerical strength offers no compensation for the poverty, persecution and scapegoating that the Roma have to endure — or for how their welfare is accorded a low priority by the EU’s institutions.

That few Brussels officials pay much attention to the situation facing Roma has been exemplified in recent weeks as Nicolas Sarkozy’s government in France effectively declared a war against gypsies. When the Paris authorities announced in late July that they had authorised the systematic destruction of Roma camps and the large-scale expulsion of Roma to Bulgaria and Romania, the European Commission initially insisted that the surrounding matters concerned national EU governments only.

Following the deportation of about 1,000 Roma by France during the month of August, the Commission has finally questioned the legality of these measures. In an unpublished paper, the EU’s executive arm cast doubts on assurances by Paris that all of the deportations were voluntary and therefore did not breach a 2004 law — known as the “free movement directive” — that forbids group deportations from one of the Union’s states to another.

The French offensive against Roma bears some similarities to an initiative unveiled by Italy in May 2008. The Italian “security package” provided for the dismantling of Roma camps and the automatic deportation of migrants who cannot prove that they have regular employment. Since then, thousands of Roma have been pushed out of Italy.

Europe’s more recent wave of attacks against Roma kicked off in July when the mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen urged the Danish national authorities to ensure that “criminal Roma” were arrested and expelled. More than 20 Roma were deported from Denmark soon afterwards.

Germany, Belgium, Britain and Sweden are among the other EU countries that have either taken action against the Roma or stated their intention to do so. Meanwhile, anti-Roma sentiment and the tendency to blame Roma for crime has been vigorously exploited by far-right politicians in many parts of Europe. The Hungarian extremist party Jobbik has called for Roma to be forced to live in segregated camps from the general population. In response to its call, the Hungarian Socialist Party said it hoped that Jobbik did not wish to have “concentration camps” erected…

Inter Press Service:


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