Roma evictions / expulsions: “France must comply with international non-discrimination standards”

GENEVA (29 August 2012) – United Nations human rights experts urged the French Government to ensure that its policies and practices regarding the dismantling of Roma settlements and the expulsion of migrant Roma conform in all respects to European and international human rights law relating to non-discrimination.

“Evictions continue and threaten to place families in highly vulnerable situations,” stressed the Special Rapporteurs on minority issues, migrants, housing and racism.

“Forced eviction is not an appropriate response and alternative solutions should be sought that conform with human rights standards,” said Raquel Rolnik, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing. “Legal safeguards must be in place including the provision of adequate housing alternatives to ensure that individuals, particularly children, women and those with illnesses or disability, are not left homeless or vulnerable.”

The UN housing expert also noted that ‘though these acts are being justified on the basis of unsanitary conditions, few if any visible efforts are being developed to find alternative solutions for these communities, such as improving housing conditions.”

A number of evictions and expulsions in August including in the cities of Lille, Lyon and Paris, have been documented by non-governmental organizations and the media, and seem set to continue. The UN experts recalled that similar actions against the Roma were undertaken in August 2010 and met with widespread European and international criticism.

“These reports are disturbing, especially because it is not the first time that Roma are collectively expelled from France,” said Rita Izsák, the UN Independent Expert on minority issues. “The Roma are European Union citizens and Europe’s most marginalized minority. Regrettably, these acts demonstrate that they do not always enjoy the same right of free movement and settlement, and continue to experience discriminatory treatment.”

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, noted that “the ultimate objective seems to be the expulsion of migrant Roma communities from France.” He highlighted that “collective expulsion is banned under international law and any repatriation should be voluntary, in compliance with international standards, and based on individual assessment and independent monitoring.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, warned that “these evictions and expulsions are inevitably fuelling the already worrying climate of hostility against Roma in France,” and highlighted the importance of enhancing the efforts to tackle marginalization of Roma in the sphere of housing and employment and facilitating their social inclusion.

The UN experts also expressed concern over a practice of financial incentives to Roma to return to their countries of origin, which –in their view- may allow the Government to claim that Roma are returning voluntarily and protect it from legal challenges regarding forced expulsion. However, they noted, having been evicted from their homes, those affected may have little choice and face significant pressure to leave.

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