Monday, 16 August 2010

French Roma Fight Back

As Sarkozy's opportunistic and blatantly racist attempts to 'ethnically cleanse' France of Roma, Gypsies and other Travellers, by forcibly destroying their camps and deporting those of them that are found not to have the correct residency or work documentation, the victims of the pogrom have started to fight back. A group of Roma that had been expelled from a camp in the town of Anglet, south of Bordeaux, used their 250 cars, trucks and caravans to blockade the Bordeaux bypass and a bridge over the River Garonne, backing traffic for 5 hours and causing mile-long tailbacks in both directions. Having then been stopped by police from moving onto a nearby sports field, they reoccupied the bridge for another hour-and-a-half in the evening before leaving.

In the past two weeks police have closed more than 40 camps and at least 700 children and adults have been detained prior to deportation back to various eastern European countries, under the excuse of a 'security clampdown'. However, Sarkozy's move is merely an all too obvious attempt to boost his flagging poll ratings by openly linking immigrants and crime, a policy that has brought widespread condemnation not only from the left and the UN*, but also from within his own UMP party.

On Thursday, the vice president of France's Human Rights League Malik Salemkour said that there was a problem of "institutionalized racism" in the country. And following a raid on a camp in Paris on Saturday, UMP elder statesman Jean-Pierre Grand likened the camp evictions to round-ups during World War II. "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" was "disgraceful". The vice president of France's Human Rights League Malik Salemkour has also said that there is a problem of "institutionalised racism" in the country.

In better news, the residents of a 10-year-old Gypsy camp in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, which was evacuated by the police last month, has been offered four empty lots by the Communist Party mayor to re-establish their community.

* Last week the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued a 90 page report on racism in France, claiming that the country was experiencing "a notable resurgence in racism and xenophobia" and lacked the political will to deal with the problem.

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