Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Growing Roma Conflict In Paris

Being a Parisian who returns back to Paris every summer, the Roma crisis is a very true problem that is recognised by many people. I have decided to write this as Sarkozy’s policies on Roma's in Paris directly affect me and my family in numerous amounts of ways.

France is known for being a country with the harshest policy towards immigrants, especially Roma ones. The 2010, New York Times article “Dispute Grows Over France’s Removal of Roma Camps” by Stephen Castle and Katrin Bennhold gives an overview on the growing pressure from the European Union about their harsh policies and how French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, was unswayed by the demands. Sarkozy’s policy is to dismantle all illegal immigrant camps in France, as “Europe cannot close its eyes to illegal camps”(NYT). There’s around an estimated 400,000 Romani living in established French communities(BBC), it is fair to say that it is a growing concern that cannot be simply dismissed in France. The main reason why France has adopted this policy is because, according to France’s Prime Minister - Manuel Valls, Roma’s are branded as foreigners and who do not ‘integrate’ with the French way of life(Daily Mail). Hence battling the argument of French authorities being racist and deliberately targeting Roma camps, as mentioned in the New York Times article. Most Romas travel to countries such as France in hope to find jobs, to send their kids to school, but to ultimately improve their living standards. One of the most common examples of Romas not being able to integrate into the French community is shown through the rejection from the educational system. Generally, schools do not allow Romas into the educational system as local authorities are ‘reluctant to recognise them as residents’(BBC). As they are not officially residents, they cannot acquire social benefits that residents are normally entitled to. Referring back to the New York Times article, Sarkozy came under fire when removing Roma camps as it was seen as contradictory to the Lisbon Treaty passed in 2010, which its main goal is to provide social protection and support  non discrimination, which was strongly back by the French. Building on to this, ever since the birth of European integration, the right of freedom of movement between internal borders, also known as the Schengen Area was considered as a fundamental right. But, although part of the EU, Romania and Bulgaria are outside this passport-free travel area(NYT), the two countries where
Romas are portrayed to be from. According to Hugo Brady, the senior researcher at the Center of European Reform, when the laws of movement were developed, “it was assumed that this would be about highly qualified, multi-lingual, economically mobile workforce moving across borders - not about Roma”(NYT). Romas have a very negative social stigma in Europe, as they portrayed as people who are mischievous, targeting tourists and stealing, as well as forcing their children to elicit sympathy when begging for money.

One of the reasons why Sarkozy is following the deportation policy is because he is aiming to create a new image for himself in France by receiving strong support from the conservative right winged voters. At the same time, Sarkozy is a G-20 president, although his goals to deport Romas from France may be a sustainable or developing goal, it is certainly not for the G-20. Dominique Moisi, from the French Institute for International Relations, perfectly sums up Sarkozy’s stance in 2010, “He should have realised that he can’t do both at the same time.”(NYT)Another issue that circles the deportation of Roma’s is, where do they go? By definition, Romas don’t belong to one particular country, they’re a ethnic group that originated in Europe. According to Manuel Valls, France’s interior minister, the Roma people’s ‘destiny is to return to Romania or Bulgaria’(BBC). This may seem as unfair as Roma’s do not belong to a nation, and this does not exactly solve the problem, as life in Romania and Bulgaria is much worse for the Roma people, they may feel that they have to return to Europe, hence starting a cycle.

In my opinion, coming from a Parisian view, the Roma’s are a very noticeable group of people in Paris especially. Because of their lack of integration, in a way, they stand out, putting more attention on them than needed. I can also say that the negative stigmatisation of the Roma people is very true. You are not given a racist perception towards Roma’s, but only to be careful around them as you may be subjected to theft etc..You hear stories of Roma’s getting together in classes which teach how to steal off tourists mainly, they have their own version of organised theft in groups. People start to spread the word in order to raise awareness and protect others, and this is where the racial stigmatisation of Roma’s may start. In terms of my opinion on the deportation of Roma’s, I have two opinions. One being for, as Roma’s in France do not hold any political, economical or social benefits and are frowned upon way to heavily to successfully integrate. The second being that it is not entirely fair that they are being deported as they have made such a long journey to be here, and deporting simply does not solve the problem.

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