Rights Groups Urge Secretary Clinton to Highlight Plight of Roma in France
Say U.S. voice is needed as Europe’s Roma are under pressure Washington, DC – Human Rights First today urged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to comment publicly on the expulsions of Roma from France and the discourse of intolerance used by some French politicians. In a letter also signed by Amnesty International USA, Council for Global Equality, European Roma Rights Center, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Institute, and the Public Interest Law Institute, the groups noted Secretary Clinton’s long-term commitment to promoting the rights of Roma and urged the U.S. State Department to specifically address the ongoing situation in France. Across Europe, Roma are currently facing an array of discriminatory and segregatory policies. Increasingly, Roma individuals and communities are victimized by private acts of bias-motivated violence, or hate crime, that further threatens the security of this vulnerable population. On numerous occasions, the United States has pronounced its motivation to combat discrimination, segregation, and violence against Roma. “Your support would not only draw attention to this particular violation of human rights, but also signal to other countries where Roma are facing significant challenges that the U.S. takes seriously discrimination and collective action against ethnic minorities,” the groups’ letter to Secretary Clinton notes. Since July 2010, the French government has dismantled two hundred camps populated by Roma and Traveler groups. It has also expelled approximately 1,230 Roma individuals from France back to their countries of origin, mainly Romania and Bulgaria, though a variety of means such as mandatory deportation orders and so-called “voluntary” repatriations. Rights groups maintain that such singling out of a particular ethnic group for law enforcement action is impermissible, and the French expulsions appear to violate numerous due process guarantees provided for by European Union (E.U.) law. E.U. laws assert the right of each E.U. citizen to move freely across the territories of its 27 member states. The European Commission, the executive body responsible for enforcing E.U. laws, is currently evaluating if France’s actions are in compliance with the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as Directive 2004/38/EC. According to the rules, individuals who no longer fulfill residency requirements can only be expelled if the decision is proportionate and sent to them one month in advance “in writing, fully justified and open to appeal.” Collective expulsions are prohibited—as is ethnic profiling—and each case must be studied separately. “Since you have championed human rights and Roma rights in particular, your response to these expulsions is critical. We urge you to speak today to show political condemnation of France’s handling of the Roma evictions and expulsions, as well as the negative stereotyping of Roma by French politicians. The alternative—silence—may only undermine the security and safety of Roma throughout Europe,” the groups’ letter concludes.