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Europe

Rights groups slam France's Roma policy on World Romani Day

media Police clear a Roma camp Reuters

French police forcibly evicted neatly 3,000 Roma from makeshift camps in the first quarter of 2014, rights campaigners announced on Monday, as Amnesty International cited France as one example of widespread discrimination against the minority groups in Europe.

French authorities cleared 2,904 Roma out of 27 shanty towns between 1 January and 31 March 2014, the French human rights league and the European Roma Rights Centre said.

The number of evictions was at the same level as that of 2013, the campaign groups.

In a report released to coincide with International Romani Day, named as 8 April in 1990 to raise awareness of Romani culture and problems, Amnesty International cited the evictions as an example of official discrimination against Roma in Europe.

Many of the 10-12 million Roma living in Europe face "the daily threat of forced eviction, police harassment and violent attacks", the rights group said.

"The conditions in which many Roma are forced to live are a damning indictment of years of official neglect and discrimination," the report said. "Far from acknowledging that this situation is a result of their failure to ensure the human rights of the Roma, some European leaders are choosing to blame Roma themselves for 'failing to integrate'."

In September, when he was still interior minister, Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared that most Roma have no intention of integrating and should return to their countries of origin.

The report acccuses governments of pandering to prejudices that fuel anti-Roma violence.

"For its part, the European Union has been reluctant to challenge member states on the systemic discrimination of Roma that is all too evident," it said.

Many of France's 20,000 Roma live in extreme poverty in makeshift settlements with little or no access to basic services, such as water and sanitation, and at constant risk of forced evictions, Amnesty said.

"Using the examples of France, the Czech Republic and Greece, we wanted to illustrate what's goiing on in Europe, the fact that harassment and violence are enacted by several agents, sometimes the police, sometimes grops from parties or semi-organised groups and sometimes individuals," Amnesty researcher Marco Petrolino told RFI.

"In these three countries the Roma are not just the victims of violence and racist harassment, they are also discriminated against in otehr areas, such as education and housing. So we are demanding that all racist violence against Roma people be condemned and we demand that the police and legal authorities ensure that any discriminatory motive is identified when this type of violence occurs."

A man accused of throwing a toxic product at Roma camped out in a Paris street turned out to have worked in the prime minister's office during the early 2000s and to have been a member of the ruling Socialist Party at his trial on Monday.

He claimed that the liquid he threw was not harmful and admitted "crossing a symbolic line" but said he acted "to prevent others move into my street".

He will be sentenced on 12 May.

A study published on Monday by another campaign group, Les Enfants du Canal, found that 95 per cent of the 119 Roma living in the Paris region asked would like paid employment.

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