Saturday, March 30, 2013

Roma-phobia & persecution in France

Roma-phobia & persecution against Romani people goes back centuries in Europe where they were stigmatized as criminal & shiftless vagabonds, relegated to the lowest rungs of society, & subjected to extreme violence. They were hung & executed without trial, imprisoned, beaten, expelled, drowned, dismembered. In the 16th century, a diet of the Holy Roman Empire declared that "whosoever kills a Gypsy, will be guilty of no murder." They originated in India & became the Dalits of Europe.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that simple-minded “racial” pseudo-science was formulated--which, of course, had everything to do with giving theoretical veneer to the atrocities of European & US colonialism. The progeny of those rancid ideas include the genocides of WWII, including the Romani holocaust--estimated as high as 1,500,000 people. Racism is the ideology of genocide & the language of murderous fools.

In France (with a population of 66 million), there are about 500,000 Romani Travellers who are French citizens leading an itinerant life. In addition there are about 15,000 Roma (part of the extended Romani ethnicity) who are migrants from elsewhere in Europe, particularly Romania & Bulgaria. France is like Arizona USA writ large for the Roma. They are subject to employment restrictions, denied health care, endure ethnic profiling & identity checks with pat-downs. Though they have always been subject to harassment, eviction & deportation, in 2010 Nicholass Psychozy declared war on them using the most inflammatory & racist language, accusing Roma of illegal trafficking & using children for prostitution & criminality.

Without notification & in flagrant violation of French law, their makeshift settlements were dismantled & sometimes torched; extreme police violence was used against them; families--including children, elderly, disabled--were evicted even in extreme winter weather & without alternative housing. Thousands were made homeless, thousands of families with children were detained, & hundreds were deported back to Eastern Europe--where the persecution is just as harsh.

When François Hollande campaigned last year as Socialist Party (SP) candidate against Psychozy, he promised to reform policy toward the Roma. Yet not a damn thing has changed except the rhetoric used to justify escalating evictions & persecution. All ethnic references are replaced with legal & human rights jargon. In 2012, two-thirds of the 12,000 Roma evicted across France were after the SP came to power. Psychozy bluntly stated he didn’t give a rat’s ass if they had alternative housing; Manuel Valls, the SP minister in charge, sweet-talks public housing while he sends cops in to manhandle residents & bulldoze homes. Homelessness speaks louder than words!

These bereft Roma families in Villeurbanne (near Lyon) watched last Thursday as their homes were bulldozed. Housing is a human right! As for the SP--it’s merde!

(Photo by Jeff Pachoud/AFP)

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