Valls’ Vision for Roma Settlements Remains Uncompromising

Interior Minister Manuel Valls has demanded firmness in face of the Amiens riots. Photo: flickr.com/fondapol

Interior Minister Manuel Valls 
Photo: flickr.com/fondapol

Minister Manuel Valls rekindled the tense dialogues surrounding the Romani community in France. In an interview with Le Figaro, Valls did not hide his intent to maintain, if not intensify, strict policies pertaining to Romani camps and the integration of racial groups.  He stated, “the situation has become intolerable, and it cannot continue. It is necessary to enforce the law and dismantle the unhealthy Romani camps.”

Last week, a number of camps in Saint-Denis and Bondy were cleared, and, although such evacuations have been criticized by the UN and Amnesty International, Valls announced Thursday that “more than ever, the dismantling is necessary and will continue.”  There are about 20,000 people from Romania and Bulgaria residing in 400 camps in France, about two-thirds of which surround Paris. Yet, French courts have authorized 20 more expulsions to take place between now and this summer.

Citing fires in Auberveilliers and Sarcelles and persistent high crime, Valls treats his communities as financial and social burdens.  Many of the camps are located in areas that are already impoverished, and he believes the Romani presence will only increase these neighborhoods’ financial insecurities and the social tensions between inhabitants. He affirms, “I agree with the Romanian Prime Minister when the he said, ‘the Roma are intended to remain in Romania’.”

This rhetoric and the policy changes since Fall 2012 contradict Hollande’s sympathetic attitude prior to his election last spring. However, this attitude did not translate into action.  Although he had promised in his campaign not to evict people without alternative living options, between July and December, only fifteen out of sixty-three cases were offered a solution.

Romeurope’s collective founder, Lauren el-Ghozi, commented in response to Valls’ recent statements, “He is utilizing the Roma population as a scapegoat in the media. Not only does he target a minority on an ethnic and racial basis- which is illegal- his words legitimize the arguments of racists and xenophobes.” Roma activists groups now hope to retaliate with legal action, but, as many camps are set up on private property, the pursuit of resolution remains ambiguous.

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