France: Document urges Paris police to "cleanse" city of Roma
An internal document evidently issued by City Hall in Paris to police stations in the wealthy neighborhoods of the capital has been leaked to the public. In the edict, City Hall urges police officers to count the number of Romani people in their areas and to "systematically displace" them from the streets.
News server iDNES.cz reports that a wave of criticism has arisen in the French capital in response to the news. French daily Le Parisien reprinted the document on Tuesday, which was leaked from a police station in the 6th precinct.
The authors of the internal communication exhort police officers to "cleanse" the wealthy quarter of Romani people, their children and animals. Le Parisien points out that the report evidently came directly from police headquarters.
"It directs workers in the 6th district with immediate effect and until further notice to seek out Roma families living on the street during the day and at night and to systematically displace them," iDNES.cz cites Le Parisien as reporting. The police document has sparked significant criticism.
"Ordering the counting of Romani people so they can be expelled just shifts the problem elsewhere," said charity worker Evangéline Masson of the Catholic organization Secours Catholique. She said she was shocked by the report, which she believes stigmatizes the impoverished.
Some police officers are also against the edict. "This is aggressive, and what's more, it's illegal. This stupid, unacceptable order stigmatizes an entire group. By what right do they want to expel them from the streets?" an unidentified, highly-placed police officer was quoted as saying by news server Local.fr.
News server iDNES.cz reports the unidentified officer as saying he believes the directive has no basis in law. Jean-Pierre Lecoq, mayor of the 6th precinct, is defending it.
"I am shocked to see Romani families with young children in the streets. This is neither humanly nor socially acceptable," the mayor, who is a member of the conservative UMP party of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was quoted as saying by iDNES.cz.
Lecoq said he believes the number of Romani people in the area has significantly grown recently. "The number of families has tripled and that is a real problem," he said.
The mayor neglected to add that one of the main reasons for the higher number of Romani people in his quarter is that they have been expelled from neighboring ones, mainly from the 11th. News server iDNES.cz reports that even though police officers are frequently aware that such a reshuffle will not solve the problem with these people, the French media have reported that members of the police are forced to obey such orders because the police command is often under the strong influence of politicians.
France's harsh procedures against Romani people and against immigrants in general is not big news. Immigration laws there are tough and have been amended several times during the past decade.
Thousands of Romani families from Bulgaria and Romania head to France year after year, only to be deported by French politicians once more. Sarkozy's administration deported around 15 000 Romani people back to Bulgaria and Romania annually.
An edict to demolish illegal campsites was never overturned by the Socialists when they took power in France two years ago. The French authorities deported a record 20 000 Romani people last year.
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