UN experts urge France to adhere to global standards amid Roma evictions

Young forcibly-displaced Roma from south-east Europe. Many have no citizenship which affects their daily lives. Photo: UNHCR/L. Taylor

29 August 2012 – A group of independent United Nations human rights experts today urged the French Government to ensure compliance with international non-discrimination standards when it comes to the dismantling of Roma settlements and the expulsion of migrant Roma.

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, according to a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“Forced eviction is not an appropriate response and alternative solutions should be sought that conform with human rights standards,” said the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik. “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.”

Ms. Rolnik 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.”

The experts noted 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 the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák. “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,” added Ms. Izsák, who is herself of Hungarian Roma origin.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, 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.”

Meanwhile, the 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.

Estimates suggest that up to 12 million Roma live in Europe, and other sizeable Roma populations live in Latin America and other regions, most of them on the margins of society.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.


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