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French Socialists under fire as Roma evicted and deported

media Police clear a Roma camp in Villeneuve d'Ascq on Thursday Reuters

French authorities on Thursday evicted several hundred Roma from improvised camps in the north of the country and planned to deport others from the southern city of Lyon. Roma rights groups have accused the Socialist government of carrying right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy’s policies on the question.

Two Roma camps on state-owned land near Lille were evacuated on Thursday morning. About 200 people were expelled from one and “15 caravans” from the other, according to Villeneuve d’Ascq deputy mayor Maryvonne Girard.

About 15,000 Roma are believed to be living in camps on the edges of major French cities, up to 4,000 in the Paris area.

And officials sent about 240 Roma back to Romania from Lyon, the biggest such deportation since President François Hollande took office in May.

Rights campaigners accuse Hollande of breaking an election promise that camps would not be dismantled unless alternative accommodation was available.

“At least the last president had the honesty to say what was going to happen,” commented Father Arthur, a Catholic priest who had planned to baptise six Roma children in Lille as a sign of resistance to evictions.

Last week Interior Minister Manuel Valls declared that he would not oppose evictions that a court ruled legal.

But on Wednesday he said he would review the provisions introduced by the Sarkozy government for handling Roma, raising the possibility of lifting an employment ban introduced in 2007.
 

The Sarkozy government's eviction and expulsion of Roma from Romania and Bulgaria sparked protests in 2010 and led European Union justice commissioner Viviane Redding to compare the round-up to World War II deportations.

 

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