Monday, 16 August 2010

State racism against the Roma in France

At the end of last month, the shooting of a 27-year-old man by police in Grenoble sparked riots. Among other incients, youths torched 50 cars, construction equipment, and two shops.

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux pledged to quickly restore order. But, in "waging a war against insecurity," he has vowed to tear down illegal Gypsy camps and expel Gypsies from other EU states who break the law.

As reports;
Since Mr Sarkozy's crackdown started on 6 August, over 40 camps affecting some 700 adults and children have been closed, with the government aiming to shut down 300 in total over the coming months. Any illegal immigrants are to be deported to their country of origin.

The president's move against illegal Roma is part of a wider security clampdown that began in the wake of the shooting of a youth by police in the Loire Valley in July. The killing, carried out after the youth committed an armed robbery at a casino, provoked a riot.

Mr Sarkozy subsequently proposed tough new laws, including stripping French nationality from those who attempt to take the life of a police officer, thereby becoming the first French head of state to openly link immigrants and crime.

The proposals have attracted opprobrium from the left of France's political establishment but the action against the Roma camps has also drawn criticism from within the president's centre-right UMP party.

Following the latest raid on Saturday on a camp in an eastern Paris suburb, UMP law-maker Jean-Pierre Grand said the government's policy was "turning disgraceful" and likened the camp evictions to round-ups during World War II.

Mr Grand said he had to react after hearing "that the authorities, arriving very early in the morning, break up families, sending men to one side and women and children on the other, and threatening to separate mothers and children."

He went on to note that these type of evictions do not work, as the Roma tend to regroup later.

Other conservative politicians have also spoken out against the tightening security laws. In an interview with Le Parisien, ex-minister Christin Boutin, president of the UMP-allied Christian Democrat Party (PCD), called for an end to "cultivating fear" and "putting people up against one another."

"Stigmatisation of one or another community exacerbates violence," she noted, adding that many French people have foreign origins, including the president himself, who has a Hungarian background.
The good news comes from the fact that the measures have seen something of a fightback;
Members of France's Roma, Gypsy and traveller minorities blocked a major highway outside Bordeaux on Sunday after hundreds of them were kicked out of an illegal campsite.
President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has in recent weeks launched a major and controversial crackdown on the travelling minorities, closing unauthorised camps and expelling foreign-born Gypsies from the country.

Sunday's blockade was the first major counter-protest by the groups, and more than 250 cars, trucks and caravans blocked the Bordeaux bypass and a bridge over the River Garonne in the southwest of the country.

Police and road safety officials said northbound traffic towards Paris was backed up for five kilometres (three miles) and southbound into Bordeaux for two kilometres, causing major disruption on a summer public holiday weekend.

The protestors blocked traffic on the bridge for about five hours before leaving to try to move their caravans onto a sports ground, but were stopped by riot police and several scuffles broke out.

They then reoccupied the bridge for another hour-and-a-half in the evening before leaving.
The United Nations has called attention to the growing problem of racism in France. However, whilst it cites "the absence of true political will," the real problem - as ever - is that said will is focused on demonising minorities for political gain.

If, as seems the case, France wants to follow in Italy's footsteps, then the results could potentially be very bad indeed. Direct action is the Roma's only weapon against a hostile state and a climate of growing racism.