EU Commission Condemns France for the Expulsion of the Roma

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.

3 comments

  1. A good deal of the debate centered on France’s expulsion of the Roma has pertained to the question of legality. To me, as an initial matter, it seems that France’s action is not at least blatantly illegal. While citizens in the EU have the right to move freely between Member States, this right is limited by Directive 2004/38/EC in that it allows Member States to proportionally restrict citizens’ freedom of movement on public policy grounds if after a period of three months it appears that they have not contributed to that Member State’s economy and have become, instead, a drain on its societal interests.
    While this is all very well, however, Article 4 of Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms prohibits the “collective expulsion of aliens.” To me, as a matter of law, this language has to be controlling. Indeed, the fundamental principle underlying this language is basically repeated in Directive 2004/38/EC because even as the Directive allows limitations on citizens’ freedom of movement, it conditions these limitations on an assessment of the personal conduct of each citizen concerned.
    At this point, there is probably no way to tell whether France has systematically examined the conduct of each individual Roma it expelled from its borders. While I would hazard a guess that it has not, I would also say that France no doubt has at least some basic proof supporting a legal argument that it did. Otherwise, I do not see how France expected to get away with what it did.
    Overall, however, I must admit that I am truly amazed that France even considered expelling the Roma. While EU law would seem to allow it under proper conditions, I have to say that I find even the law a little disturbing in this respect. There are so many people in the world today (literally millions) who do not contribute to the economies of the states in which they live, there are so many people who, as Hernando De Soto describes in his book: The Mystery of Capital, are cut off from contributing to markets because they have “houses but not titles; crops but not deeds; [and] businesses but not statues of incorporation,” that it would seem that in making it legal to expel them, the world’s economic problems are simply being passed up.

  2. When I heard about the expulsion of the Roma the questions that came to my mind were: what did a modern day expulsion of an ethnic group of people look like? And then what is going to happen to the Roma once they are back in Romania? With comparisons being offered between this expulsion and that of the Jews and Gypsies the image that came to mind was the Roma sent walking all of those many miles back to Romania with all of their possessions in tow. But that did not seem like what would happen in 2010 in Europe. It turns out what the French government is doing so far is closing the camps where the Roma live and then offering them 300 Euros per adult and 100 Euros per child and putting them on a plane back to Romania. According to an article in the Economist entitled, “Have Your Roma Back” states that all of the returns are “voluntary” as of yet. However, it does make you wonder just how voluntary such returns are if they no longer have a place to live because their camps are being closed and they the government of France is no longer allowing them to live there. And although this is a more sophisticated way of making people move from your country, is it really anything more than a civilized facade on the illegal targeting of and expulsion of an ethnic group? Now the Romanian government is being charged with the task of “reintegrating” the Roma into their society. But at a time when there is already a high unemployment rate in Romania and the country does not have extra funds it is not clear what the Roma are going to be offered, if anything.

  3. The comparison of the French government’s expulsion of the Roma to Nazi actions during World War II against Jews and Gypsies, whether you believe this is a fair association or not, warrants close examination of this issue.

    Countries have the responsibility and the right to protect their citizens and insure that their borders are secure. However, a country must be extremely careful in the way it goes about doing this. A particular race, ethnicity or religious group should not be allowed to become the scapegoat for all of the crime and financial ills of a country. In times of economic downturn, it is easy to blame one group of people who appear not able to “adequately support themselves” and expel them from the country.

    While I have no doubt that France’s concerns are founded on legitimate grounds (the French commonly regard Roma in France as pickpockets and thieves), the French government must still find another way of resolving these issues. I highly doubt that every Roma is a criminal or unable to adequately support themselves and deserves to be deported by the French government. In fact, there may be some Roma who even make valuable contributions to French society.

    The European Union countries must attempt to find a balance between their goal to encourage the free flow of people and goods and their equally important objective of promoting safety within their borders.

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