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    Backlash against France’s anti-Roma policy

    by Rumbold
    9th September, 2010 at 9:34 pm    

    The European Parliament has criticised Nicholas Sarkozy’s mass deportations of Roma people from France:

    A parliament resolution denouncing the French government’s policy of deporting Roma families and demolishing their encampments was carried by a much bigger majority than expected – a vote of 337 to 245, bringing an uncommon victory for the centre-left and liberals in a chamber dominated by conservatives.

    The Economist recently had a good piece on the Roma.

                  Post to del.icio.us

    Filed in: Civil liberties,Current affairs,Other racists

    27 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. sunny hundal

      Blogged: : Backlash against France's anti-Roma policy http://bit.ly/cBNVbi

    2. yorkierosie

      RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Backlash against France's anti-Roma policy http://bit.ly/cBNVbi

    3. Bella Caledonia

      RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Backlash against France's anti-Roma policy http://bit.ly/cBNVbi

    4. Kate Higgins

      RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Backlash against France's anti-Roma policy http://bit.ly/cBNVbi

    1. Kismet Hardy — on 9th September, 2010 at 10:58 pm  

      The news is really full of surprises these days. Footballer famed for sleeping with prostitutes sleeps with prostitute. Smarmy politician’s memoirs reveal him to be smarmy. The French are racist

    2. joe90 — on 9th September, 2010 at 11:07 pm  

      Sarkozhy is picking on minorities to gain support from the right wing everyone knows it.

      If its not muslim women and burkhas its some other minority that will get it in the neck and now its the roma being blamed for crime as if the french don’t commit crimes!

    3. Sarah AB — on 10th September, 2010 at 6:27 am  

      I noticed that good Economist piece too Rumbold.

      I’ve already blogged about this, but I just wanted to have (another) moan about this piece:


      Here’s a choice quote.

      “As it is, though, they are parasites on a state of civilisation, material and cultural, they have done nothing to build and could not reproduce for themselves.”

    4. Kismet Hardy — on 10th September, 2010 at 9:34 am  

      Brigitte Bardot appears on the cover of France magazine out 15th sept in honour of her 76th birthday. She’s always been hot for racist boys, she has, but loves furry things. Anyhoo, she’s available for an interview. Contact


    5. Kismet Hardy — on 10th September, 2010 at 9:59 am  


    6. dmra — on 10th September, 2010 at 10:02 am  

      “The French are racist”

      All of them?

    7. Sarah AB — on 10th September, 2010 at 10:29 am  

      @dmra - indeed!

    8. Trofim — on 10th September, 2010 at 10:34 am  

      Trouble is, they haven’t got a homeland. As I understand it, there is plenty of evidence that gypsies originated in India, so in a sense, they have a right of return. Now there’s plenty of room in India for a little homeland, and Indians are a warm, welcoming people. How about that? Oh, alright. How about Pakistan, then? I mean, Pakistan is really part of a greater India, and Muslims and Roma have lots in common, both being unpopular minorities. And they both like a scrap. Let’s hear it for a homeland in the Indian subcontinent.
      By the way, Rumboldt, full remarks for creative use of language: “backlash”. Isn’t there another word for “backlash” when you’re speaking about the reaction of a handful of bloated bureaucrats in Belgium to something approved of by 60% of the French people? How about “retrograde dab”?
      And full marks to commenters so far for spectacular predictability.
      Incidentally, what’s the difference between Roma, Romani/y and travellers? Is there a DNA test to distinguish one from the other?

    9. Trofim — on 10th September, 2010 at 11:56 am  

      Sarah AB:

      I’ve just looked at your blog. You are surprised at the reactions of so many people who are in agreement with the French government. Isn’t this simply evidence of how unacquainted you are with the hoi polloi? I’ve seen even pretty left wing people revise their opinion of gypsies and travellers, after a closer acquaintance with them. It’s what they call being “mugged by reality”.

      Those on the left seem to harbour an aversion to the commonsense concept that people can be responsible, at least in part, for some of the antipathy which is felt for them by others. I tried to make this point with my comment 101 here:


      This was ill-judged on my part, because I underestimated the constant undercurrent of hypersensitivity and defensiveness which should always be assumed on this and other leftish blogs. Let me try another analogy: the Smiths down on the estate engage in numerous antisocial activities, they play loud music at all hours, have pungent, choking bonfires at all hours, on which they appear to burn their household rubbish, profusely litter the street, sit outside their house with cans of lager and intimidate passers-by. They park their broken-down cars wherever they like, irregardless of inconvenience to others, their children are aggressive, uncontrolled, and constantly engaged in vandalism. Neighbours are afraid to confront the Smiths and their children because they are belligerent and unpleasant. The council and the police are singularly shoulder-shrugging and unhelpful.
      The Smiths are extremely unpopular with the rest of the community. Now there are two general ways of conceptualising the antipathy felt towards the Smiths: (a) it’s a consequence of their behaviour or (b) the Smiths are unpopular simply because the neighbours are endemically Smithophobic.
      Is (a) unreasonable?

    10. Sarah AB — on 10th September, 2010 at 1:20 pm  

      Trofim - I’ll try to engage with your points though may have to return to this after work!

      I was initially agnostic about the Roma/Sarkozy question - partly because, like you I guess, I’m sympathetic towards people who are the victims of crime or simply disorderly behaviour (I’ve suffered very badly from noisy neighbours in the past so I say this with feeling.) I don’t want people to be treated more harshly because of a group they belong to but neither do I want them to be treated, as indivdiuals, less harshly, or others’ concerns dismissed as racist. I haven’t reread it but I remember that Economist article seemed well balanced on that count.

      But I became interested when I saw a report of Sarkozy seeming to imply he thought Romania should act to restrict movement of Roma.


      But as I hope comes through here


      I don’t want to discount the experiences of those who feel their lives have been disrupted by Roma/travellers either.

      When I expressed concern that people didn’t seem to be taking Dejevsky to task it wasn’t simply because of the headline - and I don’t assume that everyone who agrees with, or is agnostic about, Sarkozy is horrible - it was more a specific concern about the tone of some of the points - such as the quote I pulled out - which I found really shocking. They prompted letters to the paper.

      With regard to the ‘Smiths’ no, one isn’t ‘Smithophobic’ to object to such behaviour - but if you suddenly remembered someone else called Smith who you’d had a disagreement with and started to assume that your other neighbour called Smith, though apparently blameless, must also be to blame - then that might be a bit worrying.

      Wanting to fingerprint everyone called Smith or round them up [as per Jobbik's idea] would also be an irrational reaction. I know one can make a case that anti Roma feeling is cultural, not racist and is a response to genuine problems and, as I hope I’ve implied, I don’t want to discount that perspective. But it’s easy to slip from that kind of targeted criticism of a ‘culture’ to simple racism. And the problem is circular - although it would be rather patronising to assume that nothing is ever the responsibility of a Roma individual or community - neither can the racist attitudes of settled communities always be helpful.

    11. Kismet Hardy — on 10th September, 2010 at 2:21 pm  

      “The French are racist”

      All of them?

      No more so than Wayne Rooney always sleeps with prostitutes and Tony Blair is always smarmy, no.

      My best french is a baguette, and so on

    12. Trofim — on 10th September, 2010 at 2:22 pm  

      Sarah AB:
      Thank you for taking the time to reply.
      By the way, I’ve had a look at those Cambridge college greens, and there appears to be a lot of free space, handy for some Roma encampments. Oh, hang on, it’s my eyes playing up - they’re not open spaces, they’re ivory towers. (Only kidding).

    13. dmra — on 10th September, 2010 at 2:31 pm  

      Kismet Hardy,
      so you seem to think it’s OK to make racist comments if they’re funny (or at least meant to be) or if they’re about Europeans.

      Would you care to enlighten the rest of us as to when it’s OK to be racist and when it isn’t?

    14. damon — on 10th September, 2010 at 5:16 pm  

      Can I just ask what the French government and local councils should do with Romanian and Bulgarian Roma families living in squatter camps in the woods?

      The answer must be to house them. All Eastern European Roma families must have the right to be housed on arrival in any place in Western Europe they choose.

      I can’t see any other way around this.

    15. Trofim — on 10th September, 2010 at 6:59 pm  

      damon @ 14;

      “the answer is to house them”.

      The whole ethos of Romany culture is the resistance to being sucked into the soulless, stultifying mechanistic culture of the “settled community”. It’s the romance of the open road, horizons, restlessness, contact with nature. Something with which I can myself, identify strongly. If you look at the Fordham Report 2008, commissioned by Ken Livingstone, on the accommodation needs of the travelling community, the phrase “psychological aversion to bricks and mortar” occurs many times. This restlessness, this desire to not stay long in one place, by its very nature militates against integration/assimilation into the wider community. Those who do settle down often feel they have betrayed their traditions. How can anyone keep a long-term job, attend a school regularly, if you’re on the go all the time?

    16. damon — on 10th September, 2010 at 10:55 pm  

      Joe90 @2

      Sarkozhy is picking on minorities to gain support from the right wing everyone knows it.

      If its not muslim women and burkhas its some other minority that will get it in the neck and now its the roma being blamed for crime as if the french don’t commit crimes!

      Great, that’s the easy bit. Now what are the French supposed to do with newly arriving Roma who don’t have the right to work or receive any benifits?

      It would seem to me that there has to be a Europe wide system of integration of the Roma.
      But that might fall foul of people who advocte supporting minority cultures and for whom assimilation is a dirty word.

      Trofim. Roma live in houses. I regularly walk past at least half a dozen Roma houses all close together in a corner of Belfast. And they seem to be putting down roots. The men sell the evening paper, both at newstands and at traffic lights and some are buskers.
      Women sell the Big Issue (and beg) at regular sites all over the city center. They are outside three different shops in my more suburban parade form morning to evening six and seven days a week.

      I’d say that what the council has to do is just have programmes to integrate them more year after year - and always be ready to house more of their family and neighbours who turn up.

    17. joe90 — on 11th September, 2010 at 9:36 am  

      damon post #16

      as you very well know the eu is all about free travel between states and who will take advantage more than a traveling community like the roma.

      When your fellow european citizens are having economic hardship or social problems usually the government establish programs to tackle the problems.

      Not kick them out bnp style. Whats next lets kick out anyone else we don’t like i can hear cheers coming from readers of the daily fail already!

    18. damon — on 11th September, 2010 at 11:24 am  

      On the Roma being a travelling community. Are they?
      I get the idea that many are travelling just trying to find a place that they like to settle down.
      They were pretty settled in Eastern Europe weren’t they? Many of them will have been anyway. Living long term in the same place.

      I don’t think it’s up to ‘us’ to call them a travelling community. If they present themselves in your town and have needs as families, then I think you will be obliged to meet those needs head on. That’s the way it works isn’t it?
      And for countries which have strict rules about having ID cards that are linked to having a registered permanent address …. then those rules will have to be relaxed for Roma people who are still in the unsettled stage of their immigration.

      As for this anger at what Nicholas Sarkozy is doing .. I’m not going to take too much notice of ‘whiining liberals’ untill they come out with some concrete proposals at what the French authorities should do with squatter camps in the woods and people who do not have the right to work or welfare.

      In Ireland there have been Roma here now for 15 years or so, since they first started coming over as asylum seekers. Opinion on them is very polarised - and here is a cross section of a general Irish political forum. Just see this page for example.

    19. joe90 — on 11th September, 2010 at 3:21 pm  

      post #18

      the roma only have to come back again with the 300 euros they each have been given in a month or two and the problem carries on again like a loop.

      so what is the real reason sarkozhy is doing this to boost his party? to gain right wing support? he is a cynical slimeball who will pick on minorities just to gain popularity.

    20. damon — on 12th September, 2010 at 2:25 am  

      I was hoping someone would put foreward some positive sugestions for integrating Roma into western European countries when they move here.

      I agree that it sounds like Sarkozy is using this issue to build popularity … but he is a politicion. It’s his job to do the will of the people and enforce the law. There is this figure too:

      Although Bucharest receives $5 billion in annual E.U. subsidies, it spends only 0.4% of that on integrating the nation’s Roma minority.

      That’s what French Secretary of State for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche says.

      I am perfectly happy to happy to take a liberal and leftist view on all this - but I have not been happy with the kinds of arguments I have heard so far from the left. It sounds like just more of the same old usual - with little in practical solutions. Which is a pity as I’d like to be able to know what would be best for the Roma woman who tries to sell the Big Issue outside where I live most evenings, by walking up to the cars queuing at the traffic lights across the road. I have yet to see her sell one - and she’s doing it in the traffic I think because people aren’t buying it that much any more in the regular way - so the direct approach is seen as being better.

    21. left to right — on 14th September, 2010 at 6:57 pm  

      More on this today from EU.

    22. zed — on 14th September, 2010 at 11:23 pm  

      “In Ireland there have been Roma here now for 15 years or so, since they first started coming over as asylum seekers. Opinion on them is very polarised – and here is a cross section of a general Irish political forum. Just see this page for example.

      fair enough. It’s not like the Irish have every migrated anywhere.

    23. damon — on 15th September, 2010 at 12:47 pm  


      fair enough. It’s not like the Irish have every migrated anywhere.

      It’s not a question of migrating or immigration. France has taken in immigrants from all around the world. It’s what you do about families building camps in the woods and living there long term.
      A bunch of Irish might get kicked out of the country if they were found to be doing such things in New York or San Francisco. People do camp in SF’s Golden Gate Park. It’s not allowed and if detected you will get thrown out or arrested - but people do it because it’s such a big place. But you cant make it like these semi-permanent camps the Roma made in France and Italy.
      If you tell me what the French should have done with them I’ll certainly take it into consideration.

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