A European Union summit opened in Brussels Sept. 16 amid continued tension over the French expulsion of Roma migrants and a threat to take Nicolas Sarkozy’s government to the European Court of Justice. The EU justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, expressed regret for comparing French treatment of Roma with that of Jews during World War II, but insisted she was right to rebuke the French government.
Reding stated two days earlier:
I personally have been appalled by a situation which gave the impression that people are being removed from a Member State of the European Union just because they belong to a certain ethnic minority. This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War.
Over the past six weeks the French authorities have expelled almost 1,000 Roma and demolished scores of camps. (European Voice, The Guardian, Sept. 16; European Voice, The Guardian, Sept. 14)
Paris also blasted comments by former Cuban leader Fidel Castro that France is carrying out a “racial holocaust” against the Roma community. “The use of ‘holocaust’ by Mr Castro demonstrates his ignorance of history and disdain towards its victims,” said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. “Such words are unacceptable.” In a clear reference to Cuba’s treatment of dissidents, Valero added: “That Fidel Castro shows an interest in human rights is truly revolutionary.” (Romea.cz, Sept. 11)
See our last post on France and the Roma.
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More shades of fascism in France
In the early morning hours of Oct. 28, a group of armed and masked assailants attacked a Roma camp in the Parisian suburb of Triel-sur-Seine. Police are said to be conducting an intensive search for the attackers. The men got into the camp by driving a car with a flashing light on the roof and forced their way into one of the caravans, where they fired shots into the air and threatened the residents. They left the scene of the crime after about a half an hour.
French media report that witnesses said the attackers arrived around 2 AM in a car with a siren and were dressed as police officers. Carrying nightsticks and pistols, they broke down the doors to several caravans and started harassing their Roma occupants. One woman was forced to strip entirely. The perpetrators allegedly also robbed the Roma present of their personal documents.
“The families will never forget this. The worst part is they have no documents now,” an aid worker to the Roma told the French media.
About 30 Roma families have lived in the suburb for years and are being threatened with eviction from the privately owned land where they are camped. They have been in the process of requesting another appropriate campsite with access to running water from the local authorities for some time. (RYZ, Czech Press Agency, Nov. 1, translated by Gwendolyn Albert)