European Commission following up on France over interventions against Romani people
A spokesperson for the European Commission told the French media yesterday that the Commission is carefully following the way in which French authorities are dissolving Romani people's campsites and wants to ensure respect for guarantees against arbitrary deportation and discriminatory treatment. "Representatives of Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding are in contact with the French authorities to determine whether European regulations are being respected," the spokesperson said.
Agence-France Presse quoted an unnamed representative of the Commission who said this was a "test of the new French Government". "The Commission wants to verify France's commitment to governing itself by the rules it has promulgated in its own legislation," the representative said.
During the early morning hours of Thursday, French Police cleared a campsite near the northern town of Lille that was occupied by approximately 200 Romani people. The intervention followed a series of similar actions in Lyon and Paris. More Romani people who are Romanian citizens were also deported from Lyon.
Reding sharply criticized French President Nicolas Sarkozy two years ago for his deportations of Romani people who had come to France primarily from Bulgaria and Romania, which are also EU Member States. Under the threat of a court proceedings, France adopted guarantees in the end which Reding said would "protect EU citizens against arbitrary deportation and discriminatory treatment."
The new Socialist-led government is continuing the policies of the previous right-wing cabinet. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls has ordered prefects to dissolve the campsites if court orders to dissolve them have been issued and to push for the Romani people's return to their home countries. He has defended the interventions in recent days by saying they are legal and unavoidable because the camps pose a public health risk.
Approximately 20 000 Romani people live in France. Many of the deported Romani people who are Romanian citizens returned to France after being paid EUR 300 each to return to their home country. Valls said the Government will re-evaluate its policy regarding such financial support as well as its restrictions on Romanian citizens working in France.