“France’s new Socialist government is to hold emergency talks on the plight of the country’s Roma after a wave of evictions of makeshift camps prompted accusations that François Hollande was following Nicolas Sarkozy’s lead in persecuting the ethnic minority.
Human rights groups expressed outrage at a recent dawn raids and forced evacuations of caravan sites and squats across France. The police raids left hundreds of Roma, including many children, homeless after caravans were impounded and no arrangements for temporary housing were made. Others were persuaded to board flights home to Romania, activists in Lyon reported.
The raids have reopened a bitter row over Roma in France. In 2010, Sarkozy prompted criticism from the European Commission and the Vatican when he linked immigration to crime and promised to expel Roma migrants and destroy illegal camps. More than 70% of illegal Roma encampments were bulldozed and families were offered a financial incentive to leave the country. Sarkozy’s government was accused of discrimination in expelling Roma Gypsies to Bulgaria and Romania. Critics alluded to uncomfortable memories of deportations during the second world war. Many of the Roma simply returned to France, but, with old camps destroyed, they ended up living in deeper poverty and worse conditions than ever, amid a climate of fear and intimidation towards them.
Hollande had promised during his election campaign that any dismantling of camps would be coupled with the promise of “alternative solutions”. But this has not happened with the recent evictions.”