Sarkozy's War Against the Roma
Everybody hates Roma. That, at least, is what French President Nicolas Sarkozy is banking on with his policy aimed at deporting them to southeastern Europe. But the Roma themselves are used to being pariahs, and are struggling to get by despite the intensity of the current French campaign.
Only 500 meters, as the crow flies, from the Stade de France, France's national stadium, where the A86 motorway slices through the northern Paris suburbs, in a patchwork of industrial zones and dilapidated vacant lots, there is a door that opens directly into the Third World. A derelict old building in Aubervilliers, not far from the Avenue du Président Roosevelt, serves as the portal into a small, hidden settlement of about a dozen huts lining both sides of a dark, narrow passageway. The roofs are covered with plastic tarps and the walls are made of bulk refuse and cardboard boxes. If the sun were a little brighter and the late summer temperatures a little higher, this could easily be a scene from Nairobi, Kabul or the slums of Soweto. But this setting is France, once known as the birthplace of human rights.
Rodica and Cerasela live here, as do Gianni, Claudia, Benon, little Maria and many others. The settlement is home to between 30 and 40 people, including children, infants, adults and the elderly. The small camp is kept tidy, with laundry hanging outside to dry, but the interiors are squalid and sparsely furnished. There is no electricity and no running water. Every few days, friendly people in the neighborhood allow Rodica, Cerasela, Gianni and the others to fill a few canisters with water from their faucets, a small but important blessing.
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