(Washington, D.C.) — Amnesty International urges French cabinet members to end forced evictions of Roma communities and set a housing policy that respects their rights. A high-level ministerial meeting on August 22, called for by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, is the first of its kind since the new government came to power in May.
In recent weeks, a spate of recent police operations in different parts of France have aimed to dismantle unauthorized Roma camps and forcibly evict their residents. At a ministerial meeting two years ago, former President Nicolas Sarkozy referred to irregular camps inhabited by Roma as "sources of criminality." Roma in France have been facing continuous forced evictions ever since.
"Most if not all of these recent operations to dismantle Roma camps – including in Lille, Lyon and Marseilles – appear to constitute forced evictions, " said Jezerca Tigani, deputy director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia program. "As reported, most inhabitants have not been properly consulted or offered any alternative to housing."
On August 17, Amnesty International wrote to Prime Minister Ayrault calling on the French government to ensure that respect for human rights is placed at the heart of any policy discussion about the situation of the Roma. Key to this is a firm, public commitment that any eviction operations will be in line with France's obligations under international human rights law – in particular, that nobody is made homeless and vulnerable to further human rights violations as a result of such evictions.
"This meeting is an opportunity for the new government to reverse the unacceptable practices of the past," said Tigani. "Cabinet members must make meaningful public commitments to ensure that all evicted people have access to adequate housing."
Earlier this year, Amnesty International conducted in-depth research into the housing situation of Roma in France. This included site visits to interview residents at several unauthorized camps and squats. Most of the Roma reported having been forcibly evicted numerous times in recent years, and being forced into ever-more precarious conditions with each new move.
A major concern of Amnesty International is that the French legal system lacks the necessary safeguards against forced evictions. As well as failing to make consultation with residents obligatory before a planned eviction, French law does not prohibit evictions that leave people homeless and vulnerable to other human rights violations.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.