Europe Takes It Out on the Roma Minority

POST WRITTEN BY: Lucia Martinez Maroto, LLM Comparative Law student (Spring 2015)

Persecuted, discriminated, expelled and excluded, the Roma minority in Europe is under constant harassment. In 2013, the socialist government of François Hollande in France forcibly evicted about 19,300 Roma from the land they were occupying, which is just a continuation of the persecution suffered by the minority throughout time. Many refer to them as “gypsies” but the Roma consider that name derogatory.

It has been estimated that 10 to 12 million Roma people live in Europe, constituting the largest minority in Europe. Despite their large population and the large period of time they have lived in Europe – over 1,000 years – they continue to be ostracized, persecuted and suppressed. According to the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, 90% of Europe’s Roma live in poverty, and “one in five Roma in the European Union experienced racist violence.”

In France the issue is becoming increasingly important as the forced eviction policy for Roma initiated by Jacques Chirac continued during the Sarkozy administration, is now being implemented by President François Hollande.

More than 200 Roma living in a precarious camp near Bobigny (north-eastern suburbs of Paris) were forcibly evicted from their homes, and many of them were not even offered alternative accommodation. “This forced eviction throws whole families – with children, sick and elderly – in the street, and deprive them of their basic rights,” said John Dalhuisen, Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

Since the application of the anti-Roma policies, thousands of Roma have been forcibly evicted from their houses, constituting a violation of the right for respect for private and family life, the prohibition of discrimination and the right to adequate housing protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These individuals are usually put on the street, giving them no opportunity to put an end to their precarious situation and creating a vicious circle. Granted the Roma had essentially squatted on the land but the manner the evictions have been carried out without offering any housing alternatives violated human rights of the Roma.

Thomas Hammarberg, former European Commissioner for Human Rights, summarizes the ordeal: “In Europe, the various groups of Roma were subject to five centuries of shameful repression since they arrived in India after a long migration. The repressive methods were varied: from slavery to the slaughter, through forced assimilation, expulsion or internment. Some methods have changed, but not receiving treatment.”

Forced evictions constitute a great violation of human rights and have a very high human cost, causing racial segregation and discrimination, impoverishment, and physical and psychological trauma. However, Europe seems unable or unwilling to integrate the Roma population despite the constant human rights violations committed against the minority, creating a new category of “unwanted people.”

One comment

  1. It is unfortunate that even in the wake of centuries of oppression perpetrated against minorities that should have ended after the Holocaust, European governments continue to perpetrate these types of offenses. As the Der Spiegel article cited above notes, “The Nazis murdered hundreds of thousands of [Roma].”

    It is surprising that France has taken this action in light of European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence. In 2012, that court ruled that British judges had been wrong to claim an eviction order against a Roma family was beyond challenge, ruling it should have been considered in the light of Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees respect for a person’s home, private and family life. See Case of Buckland v. United Kingdom, Application no. 40060/08, available at{“itemid”:[“001-113129”]}.

    That President Hollande would dare to infringe upon Roma rights in the wake of Buckland defies comprehension.

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