of Roma reaches a peak despite condemnations by the European
Committee of Social Rights
In September 2012, the European
Committee of Social Rights found that France had infringed the
human rights of Roma migrants living in France by failing to
provide them decent living conditions. The decision was made
public on 21 January 2013, just days after the European Association
for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH) published figures showing
that the number of evictions of Roma in France has never been
address the vulnerability of Roma is discriminatory
In January 2011 the medical charity Doctors of the World (Médecins
du Monde) lodged a complaint against the French authorities
before the European Committee of Social Rights, in the context
of more stringent policies brought in following a July 2010 speech
in which then-President Nicolas Sarkozy announced there would
be an increase in forced evictions and removals of Roma families
to Bulgaria and Romania.
"Médecins du Monde allege that France does
not respect the rights to housing, education for children, social
protection and health care of Roma, mostly from countries of
the European Union, living in France in extreme poverty, in violation
of Articles 11, 13, 16, 17, 19§8, 30 and 31 of the Revised
European Social Charter, read alone and/or in conjunction with
Article E of the Charter," said the charity's complaint.
Based on a review of applicable French law, decisions by the
European Court of Human Rights and by bodies of the Council of
Europe (including the Committee of Ministers; Human Rights Commissioner;
European Commission against Racism and Intolerance), and on evidence
provided by Doctors of the World and the French government, the
Committee concluded that there had been no sufficient effort
to guarantee effective access to education and primary health
care for Roma communities.
The report quotes a statement by the High Authority on the Fight
Against Discrimination and for Equality (Haute Autorité
de Lutte contre les Discriminations et pour l'Egalité
- HALDE) which, in 2009, stressed that "Roma from Bulgaria
and Romania are the most controlled, the least medically protected
group in France and the only population which does not benefit
from humanitarian policies in terms of access to education and
Throughout the report, the Committee dismissed the arguments
put forward by the French government which denied accusations
The government argued that Roma migrants were not facing targeted
discrimination but rather poverty-induced hardship that other
categories of people in France were facing and which the government
was trying to address. In a country where difference of treatment
depending on one's origin or ethnicity is prohibited, Roma should
not be considered differently than any other marginalised or
impoverished population in France, said the government.
The Committee contradicted
this position, stating that given the significant vulnerability
and marginalisation of Roma communities, the authorities did
not do enough to ensure that this population was informed of
its rights and enjoyed them.
The Committee stated that "to treat Roma migrants the same
way as the rest of the population, although they are in a different
situation, constitutes a discriminatory treatment." In particular,
it is noted the "absence in France of a coordinated approach
promoting effective access to housing of people (at risk of)
suffering from social exclusion."
The Committee continued:
"[P]lans, declarations of intent, pilot projects, roadmaps
identifying targets and 'special tools' to be deployed in the
future may be necessary to reach the set objectives; but they
cannot be considered to be efficient and sufficient measures,
especially since their implementation and conception require
the use of considerable financial resources detrimental to the
undertaking of concrete actions."
France also argued that some articles of the Charter only committed
states to protect the rights of people residing legally on their
territory, thereby implying that these were not applicable to
Roma migrants without a legal residence/work permit.
The Committee disagreed, saying that the right to life and dignity
applied to all people under the jurisdiction of the parties to
the European Social Charter, regardless of their legal status
in the country. Similarly, eviction procedures should always
be respected so as not to jeopardise the rights to life and human
dignity. The authorities should, according to the Committee,
provide evicted persons with the opportunity to be re-housed.
12,000 evictions in 2012: ongoing discrimination
This decision from the Committee on Social Rights was made public
a few days after the AEDH published its latest estimate of the
number of forcibly evicted Roma. With almost 12,000 Roma evicted
in the last year (compared to 9,396 in 2011), the number of evictions
reached a peak in 2012. In 80% of the cases, the police used
force to evict Roma.
According to Philippe
Goossens, a member of the AEDH's steering committee, author of
this regular "census":
"Despite the wind of change in its discourse, the new
socialist government has actually developed an at least as disruptive
and harmful policy as that of the former government."
The Committee reached similar conclusions and, although the complaint
was lodged two years ago, it also reflected on the new government's
declared willingness to distant itself from the former Sarkozy
In particular, it commented on a circular adopted on 26 August
2012, in the midst of the eviction and removal operations carried
out in August and September 2012, which was meant to illustrate
the government's willingness to support Roma integration.
The 26 August circular lifted the 893 tax obligation for
employers willing to employ Romanian or Romanian workers-transitional
measures apply to Romanians and Bulgarians restricting them access
to work in the EU until the end of 2013. The government also
announced that the list of accessible job sectors would be widened.
However, the Committee considered that "the situation
of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals" still remained
the same since "the impact of the lifting of the tax
cannot be assessed" yet and since "the
other measures are not in force."
Moreover, the Committee found that France had violated the prohibition
of collective expulsions in every case where eviction decisions
were not preceded by the individual examination of the situation
of the person under a removal order.
Drawing on a 2009 Human Rights Watch report and on evidence provided
before the appointment of the new French government, the Committee
condemned the absence of individual examination and the conduct
of "collective expulsions" under the Sarkozy government.
According to the Committee the situation has not changed since
January 2012 when France was found in breach of the Charter for
carrying out collective expulsions of Roma.
Roma-only classrooms condemned by NGOs
Meanwhile, on 11 February 2013, several human rights organisations
- the Romeurope network, Amnesty International France, trade
union branches representing teachers and academics, and other
migrant rights groups - sent an open letter to France's Prime
The letter raises concerns about practices denying access to
education to Roma children, arguing that they are discriminatory.
In particular, the letter questions the Prime Minister about
new practices whereby special classrooms are created for Roma
pupils, away from the main buildings of schools. One of these
classrooms is located in a former school now used by the local
police as offices.
Although limited to a small number of places (Saint-Font, in
the south of Lyon; and Ris-Orangis in the suburbs of Paris),
the letter warns against the "establishment of ethnic
segregation" which contradicts the obligation for non-discrimination
at school. This principle was reasserted by the government in
a recent circular adopted on 2 October 2012 which stresses that
the "obligation for all schools to welcome all pupils
shall apply unevenly to newly arrived foreign pupils and others."
In a decision made last year, the French Ombudsman considered
that a Roma boy from Bulgaria was victim of racial discrimination
when he was denied registration at school, in breach of French
law and on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
According to estimates by the Roma rights network, Romeurop,
only 10% of the Roma children in France attend school.
du Monde, Communiqué
de presse: La France condamnée pour violation manifeste
des droits des populations Roms, Décision du Comité
européen des Droits Sociaux (CEDS), January 2013
 European Committee on Social Rights, Decision
on admissibility : Médecins du Monde - International v.
France, Collective Complaint No. 67/2011, 13 September
 HALDE, Délibération
No. 2009-372, 26 October 2009
 AEDH, 2012
Census of forced evictions from settlements of migrant Roma in
France and of their collective eviction from the territory,
4 January 2013
de 12 000 Roms évacués de leurs campements en 2012',
Le Monde.fr & AFP, 6 February 2013
 Human Rights Watch, France:
Candidates Pledge to Address Human Rights Issues, 1 May
 European Committee on Social Rights, Decision
on the merits: European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) v. France,
Collective Complaint No. 64/2011, 24 January 2012
 Collective Action: Lettre
ouverte au Premier ministre
Pour que cessent les refus de scolarisation et la création
de classes « roms », 11 February 2013
relative à l'organisation de la scolarité des élèves
allophones nouvellement arrivés, No. 2012-143,
2 October 2012
 Défenseur des Droits, Décision