France building a wall around Romani camping site
The French town of Wattrelos, located on the border with Belgium, is erecting a wall around a campsite that is reportedly used by Romani people. The 2.4 meter high barrier will extend to the border.
The wall was recently added to the existing plans for the campsite. It is supposed to prevent the Romani people from traveling into the small Belgian town of Mouscron on the other side of the border.
The plan for the wall has sparked controversy in Belgium and in France. It was the town hall of Mouscron that demanded the roadblock be erected.
"Those people will not be able to cross into Belgium from there, they will have to make their way around the barrier, which means they will not cross the border so frequently. The aim is not to hide them from view, but to create a safer environment," said Alfred Gadenne, a member of the Mouscron local council.
Deputy Mayor of Wattrelos Henri Gadaut said the construction is just a "palisade". It was added to plans for a reception center to be built in the town with room for approximately 20+ caravans after the plans were approved.
Gadaut said this is definitely not an "anti-Romani wall", as some Belgian newspapers are reporting. He claims the wall has nothing to do with Romani people.
France categorizes persons occupying caravans as "gens du voyage". These are individuals who do not maintain permanent addresses and travel all over the country.
What Gadaut is calling a "palisade" is, according to the project plans, a wall of concrete slabs. Residents on the Belgian side of the border frequently complain about the occupants of the current caravan camp in Wattrelos, whom the Belgian press refer to as Romani.
Gadaut reduced the incidents reported from Belgium down to a single occurrence, which he said involved a window being broken in someone's veranda. "The boys were playing with a slingshot," the French daily Le Figaro quoted him as saying.
According to French law, all municipalities with more than 5 000 inhabitants must build reception centers for citizens who migrate. The center in Wattrelos will have room for 24 caravans next year.
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