France Keeps Evicting Roma Migrants Despite President’s Promises

The Roma are being chased out of their homes across Europe.

A Roma woman crosses a railway. (Radu Sigheti/Reuters)

Sep 25, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

With a fourth child on the way, Adela continually faces homelessness, like many Roma—better known as gypsies, though some are insulted by the characterization of gypsies as exotic travelers, considering they've rarely had the choice of staying in one place.

Adela has settled in France, where she is constantly being evicted from squats and settlements. By her count, she's been booted from various homes 15 times since 2002.

By Amnesty International's count, she's among the 10,000 Roma gypsies who have been forcibly relocated from their temporary homes in France during the first half of 2013 alone—a record number of evictions that's shocking considering there are about 20,000 Roma living in the country.

The Roma are an ethnic group that migrated from India to Central and Eastern Europe about 1,000 years ago, and have long been subjected to discrimination. Hundreds of thousands of them were killed by Nazis during World War II, in what was referred to as "The Great Devouring."

Unfortunately, the trend in European politics has been to foment hatred of the Roma, going so far as to implement policies of forced sterilization. Roma children are often segregated from other children in schools.

"If there is no possibility of helping us, of finding us alternative accomodation, if they can't do anything, then why don't they let us stay here? We have nowhere to go, we can't sleep on the street like tramps," Adela told Amnesty's researchers.

Evictions of the migrant Roma population continue in France—as they have before in Romania, Hungary and other European countries—despite campaign promises from French President Francois Hollande in 2012 to stop forced evictions.

"France makes no provisions for effective protection against forced evictions," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia Programme Director. The French developed new policies to speed up the eviction processes.

In most cases, the evictions are carried out by hostile police officers and no alternative housing is proposed, condemning Roma to a life of constant insecurity, said Dalhuisen.

Many of France's Roma came from Romania, where families have been displaced and suffer severe hardships.

In Adela's case, she worries most for her sons, ages five, eight and 11. They have little formal schooling because of difficulty getting them into classrooms after they are forced to live further and further away.

"The children are used to evictions; they know that we never stay very long in one place," Adela said.

Amnesty International wants France and all European governments to implement a set of safeguards to prevent forced, surprise evictions and ensure families won't be made homeless by any eviction operations.