The European Union began legal proceedings against France, stemming from the deportation of approximately 1,000 Roma this past summer. France’s actions could be a violation of EU Anti-Discrimination laws if they are found to be the result of targeting specific ethnic groups. Although European law requires that citizens of other EU member states to move freely within the 27-nation zone, individuals and groups can be deported if they fail to show that they can adequately support themselves. However, deportation cannot be based on race, ethnicity, or nationality. Not only is discriminating on the basis of ethnicity or race against EU law, it is contrary to the French Constitution.
The European Commission, based in Brussels, has condemned France’s behavior and called it “a disgrace.” The commission found that France failed to incorporate a 2004 directive into its national law, which considers the free movement of workers within the EU to be a fundamental right. This violation is the source of the recent legal action taken against France. The commission sent a formal notice to France, the first step in taking legal action against an EU member state. If France fails to comply, the matter could go before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
France’s expulsion of the Roma has been compared to Nazi actions taken against the Jews and Gypsies during World War II. France has combated these accusations by stating that they will continue to close any illegal camps in France because they are allegedly places of crime and prostitution.
In addition to the French expulsion of the Roma, the Italian city of Milan has been taking similar action. The mayor of Milan has blamed the increased crime rate on Roma immigrants. In response to this, Milanese officials have been closing and destroying hundreds of small Roma camps that mainly house new arrivals, in addition to clearing out the largest Roma camp, Triboniano. Over the past two years, the Milanese government has deported approximately 7,000 Roma, and they have closed approximately 346 illegal Roma camps.
Triboniano was established in 2001 and houses about 600 Roma. The closing of this camp is Milan’s main effort at expelling the ethnic group. The Roma have a reputation of being associated with crime, and the Italian government declared a “Gypsy Emergency” in 2008, after an Italian woman was raped and murdered by a Roma man.