Roma campaigners dismiss Brussels’ claim on evictions and expulsions

News article originally published in the Guardian on Thursday 25 August 2011.

A year after a succession of countries in Europe began breaking up Roma encampments and expelling hundreds of EU citizens back mainly to Romania, the European commission has claimed it is winning the battle to protect citizens’ right to free movement across the bloc.

But advocates of Roma rights have warned Brussels that it is not doing enough to protect Europe’s largest minority ethnic group, and that evictions and deportations continue to be carried out, primarily by France and Italy.

The EU executive said it had resolved 90% of identified cases of infringement of freedom of movement since last summer.

The justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, warned that the commission would “not hesitate to speak out” if member states did not properly apply the fundamental right to freedom of movement and safeguard EU citizens “from facing arbitrary or disproportionate expulsion”. She said: “Last summer’s events were a wake-up call for Europe.” Continue reading →

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Get along, move along, shift…

Article originally published in Red Pepper in September 2010.

The European Commission has what could be called a ‘Condolence-O-Matic’ machine. Given the occasion of some wretched or not-quite-so-wretched tragedy or anniversary of a commonly agreed (but, crucially, non-controversial) historic injustice, Brussels copies and pastes in press-release form almost identical messages of condolence, regret and remembrance, whether the occasion be the anniversary of Kristallnacht, a Belgian train wreck, floods in Pakistan or the death of Michael Jackson.

But there was no solemn communique of sympathy on this year’s Roma Extermination Remembrance Day on 2 August. The day marks the 66th anniversary of the corralling of 2,897 men, women and children into the Zigeunerfamilienlager, or ‘gypsy family camp’, at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. And this summer it came amid a fresh wave of persecution meted out to Europe’s Roma community and travellers by some of the most powerful member states in the union.

The week before, French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced he was to destroy some 300 Roma encampments and cleanse France of around 700 Roma adults and children, later upped to 850. While human rights groups note a chilling echo of les rafles, the French round-ups of Jews during the second world war, the Elysee Palace claims the repatriations are voluntary, as the government is paying each adult EUR300 (plus EUR100 per child) to return to Romania or Bulgaria.  Continue reading →