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UN Urges France to Stop Collective Deportation of Roma

  • Lisa Schlein

A UN Watchdog Group is urging France to stop the collective deportation of Roma, also known as Gypsies. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calls collective expulsions a violation under international law. The Committee monitors States' implementation of the 1969 International Convention on the elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The UN Committee, which is composed of 18 independent members, says it is concerned by a rise in racism and xenophobia in France in recent years.

It is particularly worried by what it sees as an increase in violent racist demonstrations against Roma immigrants. It notes, since France presented its report to the Committee two weeks ago, a number of Roma have collectively been deported to their countries of origin.

Committee Member, Pierre-Richard Prosper, says the committee is concerned that the removal or return of the Roma has been done on a collective rather than individual basis.

"We understand that a State has a right and a responsibility to deal with security issues and issues of immigration and illegal immigration," said Prosper. "But, our view is when you are doing so, as we said, it should not be on a collective basis. It should not be targeting a group as a whole. Individual assessments need to be conducted and look at each particular circumstance of each individual and decide does he or she merit a return or should be allowed to stay."

Prosper says the concerns of a state have to be balanced against human rights obligations, and protection and asylum needs.

France recently sent hundreds of Roma back to Romania and Bulgaria and dismantled more than 100 illegal camps. The French government justifies its expulsion of the Roma on grounds of security.

In its report to the Committee, the French delegation said the returns were voluntary and decisions were made on an individual, case-by-case basis. The delegation added the Roma were provided with humanitarian assistance upon their return.

The Committee was not persuaded by this argument. Prosper says the members remain concerned.

"It is a real concern as we receive information and we monitor how the Roma are being treated in France, as well as elsewhere. There is an appearance of discrimination. And, this is what we raised with the State party and we suggested to them in our recommendations that as they take their measures that they avoid taking measures that are discriminatory, avoid taking measures that are collective and look at this as on an individual, by individual basis"

The Committee agrees the Roma is not just a French problem. It is a problem for all of Europe and must be resolved by all of Europe.

Romania and Bulgaria are both members of the European Union. And, as such, their nationals, including the Roma, have a right to travel freely to other European countries. The Committee says they also have the right not to be abused.