[R-G] France - Thousands protest Roma expulsions
srobin21 at comcast.net
Sat Sep 4 20:04:48 MDT 2010
Protests against Roma expulsions held in France
September 4, 2010
Thousands of people have attended rallies in Paris and 130 other French
towns to protest at the government's policy of deporting Roma people.
Police say turnout across France was slightly more than 77,000 while
organisers put the figure nearer 100,000.
With polls suggesting at least 65% of French people back the policy, the
government played down the protests.
The EU parliament is to debate the Roma situation in Europe next week.
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About 1,000 Roma (Gypsies) returned to Romania and Bulgaria from France last
month, while official figures record that 11,000 Roma were expelled from
France last year.
The League of Human Rights, which called for the demonstrations, said it
wanted to counteract government "xenophobia" and what it described as the
systematic abuse of Roma in France.
The rallies were backed by the opposition Socialist Party and the General
Confederation of Labour (CGT), France's second largest trade union
confederation. 'Pushed away'
Trade unionists, students, anarchists, illegal immigrants and others turned
out in Paris to the sound of whistles and drums.
The government's policy on the Roma is not a new one but the debate is
building and becoming increasingly divisive.
Saturday's demonstrations show there are people in France hugely concerned
at what is being done in their name.
But the protesters are also a minority. President Nicolas Sarkozy says his
government's actions fully comply with EU law on migration and human rights,
even though there has been a concerted effort to link illegal Roma camps
with rising crime.
Opponents say that amounts to racism and hardly stands scrutiny.
Cities such as Marseilles and Nantes saw similar marches, and there were
solidarity rallies in neighbouring countries like Spain and Belgium, as well
as more distant states with significant Roma minorities such as Hungary and
Addressing the demonstration in Paris, actress Jane Birkin said it was up to
the French public to stand up for the rights of the Roma people.
"We are pushing away people that have a history of being pushed away," she
"We have to defend them because they don't have enough of a voice. We have
more of a voice than them. We have to be supportive."
In the south-western city of Bordeaux, more than 1,000 people took part in a
two-hour march calling for an end to "xenophobic" policies, AFP news agency
"It is a right and a duty for us to take part in this demonstration, because
if we let them crush us, you wonder where this will lead," said Antoinou
Jimenez, a representative of a group of travellers in the area.
Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux dismissed Saturday's protests, describing
the turnout as a "disappointment" for the organisers.
Nicolas Sarkozy Mr Sarkozy has faced dissent from his own cabinet on the
"Today's so-called 'defence of human rights' demonstrations only managed to
bring out, in total, across the whole of the territory, a few tens of
thousands of people," he said.
France began a high-profile campaign of clearing large numbers of illegal
Roma camps last month, as part of a security crackdown announced by Mr
The move was announced after a number of incidents of violence targeting the
police, including involving travellers in the Loire Valley town of Saint
Aignan in July.
The mass expulsions have drawn criticism from the Vatican and the UN, and
President Sarkozy has also faced dissent from within his own cabinet.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon hinted that he disliked the crude links being
made between foreigners and crime, while Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner
said he considered resigning over the issue.
Earlier this week, the European Commission criticised France over its
expulsions of Roma, saying it did not put enough emphasis on the individual
circumstances of those facing expulsion.
Under EU rules, the state can expel people who have been in the country for
at least three months without a job or are a social burden. They can also be
expelled within three months of their arrival if they are deemed to be a
threat to public security.
"We are here to show our refusal to French people and to the international
community and to tell them that there is an indignation and revolt against
the racist and xenophobe actions. The facts of striping nationality form
immigrants and dismantle Roma camps are unacceptable," said Olivier
Besancenot, the head of NPA party said in remarks to BFM TV channel.
[The NPA, the "Anti-Capitalist Party." SR]
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