Surge in forced evictions humiliates France

I honestly cannot believe what is happening across the channel in France.

In case you had forgotten a little over a year ago, the French public swept aside Sarkozy’s government and elected Francoise Hollande. For the world of human rights, it offered a breath of fresh air.

Here was a man who promised to address prejudice wherever he found it. And for those of you who regularly read my musings, you will know that I will have particularly welcomed his comments on Roma.

Hollande promised a new era for the Roma community. He even set up a commission to ensure the various government departments worked together to stop Roma communities being shoved from pillar to post on a wave of repeated forced evictions.

And a year on, what’s happened? It’s got worse. A lot worse.

Our new research, published today in the report Told to move on: Forced evictions of Roma in France, reveals forced evictions of Roma in France to have reached record proportions.

More than 10,000 people were evicted from informal settlements in France during the first half of 2013. Roma people have been condemned to a life of constant insecurity, wandering from one makeshift camp to another.

Adela, a 26-year-old, a mother of four has lived through 15 forced evictions in the ten years she has lived in France. She said: “If there is no alternative housing, if they cannot do anything to help us, then why don’t they let us stay here? We have nowhere to go, we cannot sleep on the street like homeless people.”

At the beginning of the summer, an Amnesty delegation visited the largest informal Roma camp in Lille. There were about 800 people living there. On 11 September 2013 they were all evicted.

It can’t be allowed to continue. Hollande’s commission on paper looked like a good step, but at best it has been ineffectual. He needs to give them some teeth as a matter of urgency.

The first step is simple: forced evictions should be banned. All too frequently Roma families are being kicked out of their homes with little warning and scant, if any, consultation.

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