Czech Television reports case of successful Romani integration in France
Czech television reported last month that the municipality of Aubervilliers in France has "found the formula" for integrating Romani people there. For five years the administrative bodies of the Paris suburb have been trying to correct various problems linked to the municipality's rising population of Romani immigrants from Romania.
Councillors of the Aubervilliers Municipal Department, together with civic organizations, have erected a colony of prefabricated dwellings to replace the improvised campsite where the immigrants were living. Aubervilliers has also set up many integration courses for the Eastern European immigrants to include them into mainstream French society.
After four years of work, most evaluations of the efforts are positive. The Romani campsite has gradually disappeared and the immigrants are maintaining order in their new dwellings.
When the European Union opened up to Eastern Europeans, some of France's newcomers were Romani people from Romania. Prior to the development of the Schengen Area, very densely populated localities started springing up around Paris. Their conditions were a sharp contrast to the surrounding "civilized" environment.
The Aubervilliers council started working on its outskirts in 2007, when it erected the first prefabricated dwellings for the immigrants. The aim of the project was to get rid of at least one Romani campsite. It was also an attempt at giving camp residents the chance to integrate.
The Czech Television report sketches the fate of one member of this colony, Romanian citizen Ion Piscu. Several years ago this Eastern European immigrant was traveling quite a distance around France, living in a caravan.
"We kept driving from place to place because of the gendarmes, but I kept the children enrolled in the same nursery school. Sometimes they had to get up at 5 AM to make it there and then fell asleep because they were so tired. The director called the town council over it every other day, and they eventually chose us for this project," Piscu said.
Thanks to the generous approach of the authorities and the integration courses, Piscu's ill mother managed to receive professional medical care, and his children, who are French citizens according to new legislation, now commute to school on the school bus. The total cost of assisting these families in adapting to French life has been EUR 1.2 million, with funds coming from the state, the regional council, and the municipalities collaborating on the project.
For the time being the enthusiasm of the local authorities has won the battle against prejudiced expectations that the immigrants would be ungrateful. After four years, their dwellings no longer resemble the original campsite, and the occupants don't much think of themselves as coming from Romania anymore, but feel they have a new claim on finally being French immigrants.
Through this approach, the town of Aubervilliers has "dared" to contravene the ideas of former French President Sarkozy, who ordered the liquidation of such campsites in 2010 and deported Romani people from Romania back to their home country. "We want to achieve more than just the disappearance of a Romani campsite - we want them to send their children to school. That was the basic condition for preparing their integration. Today all of their children really are attending school," said Vice-Mayor Christine Ratzel.
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