[lg policy] Gypsies leave France amid crackdown on illegals

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 20 15:26:04 UTC 2010

Gypsies leave France amid crackdown on illegals

Gypsies deemed to be illegally in France boarded planes for Romania
today. Since late July, authorities have been shutting down gypsy
camps and rounding up illegals in a high-profile initiative.

By Robert Marquand, Staff Writer
posted August 19, 2010 at 12:41 pm EDT
Paris —

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to crack down on illegal
gypsies from Romania and Bulgaria got concretely under way this week,
as the first of some 700 “Roma” deportees were put on planes bound for

Since late July, French authorities have been shutting down gypsy
camps and rounding up those deemed illegal in a highly profile
security push criticized by Mr. Sarkozy’s political opponents at home,
as well as by various European Union and UN organs. France is host to
some 15,000 Gypsies from south central Europe.

Some 73 Roma – as the non-French gypsies are known here – were put on
flights today from Lyon, and 14 put on a Paris flight.

French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux says the initiative is
“humane” and argues that France is not “stigmatizing any community.”

But Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi, a former Romanian
ambassador to France, argued Wednesday that the roundups amounted to
“criminalizing ethnic groups.”

Last month, Sarkozy responded to a July 17 riot by French gypsies
against a police station in the village of Saint-Aignan, in which a
French gypsy youth was shot, by announcing a major crackdown on
illegal gypsy camps. French gypsies are officially referred to here as
“travelers,” while gypsies from southern Europe are called “Roma.”

What is mainly different about the current expulsions of Roma this
summer is the publicity and media coverage surrounding the event. As
many as 10,000 Roma per year have been escorted to the French border
dating to 2007, according to the French Ministry of Immigration.
Sweeping security initiatives

Sweeping French security initiatives this summer proposed by members
of the ruling party include stripping the citizenship of foreign-born
French citizens who attempt lethal action against police. Also
targeted are acts of polygamy, female circumcision, and domestic
slavery. Another proposal would have parents jailed for up to two
years if minor children convicted of crimes do not comply with

The initiatives follows a year of highly charged debates in France
about a ban on the Muslim veil or burqa – seen as a move by Mr.
Sarkozy to attract voters on the further reaches of the French right.
Critics say the summer crime crackdown is partly a plan by Sarkozy to
shift public attention from embarrassing scandals filling French media
involving petty corruption and a finance minister linked to the
so-called “Bettencourt affair,” and of shoring up his popularity at a
time when polling data shows far right candidates more attractive to
French mainstream voters.

The Roma gypsies deported to Romania can legally return to France for
up to three months, provided they commit no crimes, according to the
French daily Le Figaro. Earlier French Interior Ministry statements
argue that gypsy camps are "sources of illegal trafficking, of
profoundly shocking living standards, of exploitation of children for
begging, of prostitution and crime."

Human rights groups say that targeting one of Europe’s most
politically unconnected and vulnerable groups is a lightning rod for
larger doses of “xenophobia” involving minorities. Legal French
gypsies or travelers say they fear their often illegal or semi-legal
camps are threatened, along with their way of life, in a crackdown.
Gypsies in France carry a memory of roundups under Nazi occupation,
though officials here say the idea of comparing this history to an
attempt to stop the illegal sitting on land is unjust.
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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com


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