Some 200 Roma people have been deported from France as part of President Sarkozy’s racist scapegoating. Within weeks 700 Roma will be expelled. So far police have broken up over 50 Roma camps, and Sarkozy has vowed to hit 300.
The picture above shows a meeting of Roma who were expelled from their homes at Choisy-le-Roi, near Paris. The 70 Roma included 24 children the youngest two weeks old.
The interior ministry says that within weeks 700 Roma, including many children, will be expelled. And others will follow—“voluntarily” or hurled on to planes and coaches in handcuffs.
So far over 50 Roma camps have been broken up by police, and President Sarkozy has vowed that there will be 300 dismantled within three month.
This is a chilling moment in French history, a cynical mobilisation of racist feeling that risks unleashing an even worse atmosphere of pogrom and violence against minorities, immigrants and all black people.
It is harking back to the racist policies of the 1930s.
President Sarkozy’s right wing government is scapegoating the Roma to divert attention away from those who are really responsible for the economic problems in France. And it is an attempt to shift attention from the corruption scandals that have focused attention on how Sarkozy’s regime is in the pockets of the rich.
The police raids on Roma people are always brutal. Recently a camp was cleared at Choisy-le-Roi near Paris.
At dawn armed police gave residents 30 minutes to leave the caravans and huts where they lived under a flyover on the motorway that rings outer Paris.
With their caravans and other belongings confiscated the Roma wandered the streets until the council offered them use of the gymnasium.
With rain lashing outside the families sat on thin rubber mattresses that the council had provided. The Red Cross was feeding them. A similar scene could be found a few miles away in Montreuil.
Some of the Roma have lived in France all their lives. Others came from Romania or Bulgaria when they joined the EU in 2007.
The EU of course guarantees 'freedom of movement'. But the French government is using the part of the legislation that 'expressly allows for restrictions on the right to move freely for reasons of public order, public security and public health'.
The deportation policy encourages a culture of hatred and racism.
As Ethel Brooks writes on the Guardian website, “The Sarkozy government's attacks on Roma are nothing more than cynical politics, state-sponsored racism and xenophobia aimed primarily at Roma citizens and, by extension, all immigrants.”
Sarkozy launched his assault when he hit a low in the opinion polls.
The repression is so brutal that even some right wing MPs are speaking out.
Jean-Pierre Grand, an MP who is part of the ruling UMP party, has described the treatment of Roma and other travelers as rafles, using the French word for 'roundups.' The word is associated with the Second World War roundup of Jews by French police on behalf of the occupying Nazis.
Roma and other travellers are fighting back in some places. In Bordeaux about 200 people have used caravans to block a bridge for several days.
Their defiance has won some concessions from the local authorities.
Elsewhere citizen groups and some members of opposition parties have offered solidarity to the expelled and offered them accommodation and other support.
A statement from the left wing Noveau Parti Anticapitaliste says, “The expulsions of Roma are the latest examples of a policy of foul, stinking racial discrimination.
“With its parade of police violence, custody, and deportation orders, the strategy of terror used by the ministry of interior aims to fill the quota set by the president.
“The NPA strongly condemns this policy of hatred. With this policy, the government is adopting the demands of Le Pen’s National Front.
“We must build a broad network of solidarity to oppose the evictions of Roma and travellers, and to enforce their right to stay on serviced sites.
“For the NPA, the xenophobic policies against Roma and travellers, and the moves to destroy the current pension system are two sides of one coin.
“They must be fought in unity. We need mobilisations on 4 September (demonstration against racism) and 7 September (mass strikes and demonstrations against the attacks on pensions).”
That is the right approach.
In Britain too we need to oppose all attacks on immigrants, Muslims and Roma.
To read Ethel Brooks' article go to www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/aug/18/persecution-roma-must-stop
For the NPA statement (in French) go to www.npa2009.org
Charlie Kimber is the author of the new pamphlet Immigration: The Myths Spread to Divide Us. This gives a point by point rebuttal of the media’s lies, and will arm socialists and anti-racists with the arguments they need. Copies of the pamphlet are £1.50 but bulk orders (10+ copies) are available at the special rate of £1 per copy. To order please phone 020 7819 1186 or email firstname.lastname@example.org