The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Brenda Bowser Soder,,O -202/370-3323, C - 301/906-4460

Rights Groups Urge Secretary Clinton to Highlight Plight of Roma in France

Say U.S. voice is needed as Europe's Roma are under pressure


Human Rights First today urged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton to comment publicly on the expulsions of Roma from France and
the discourse of intolerance used by some French politicians. In a
letter also signed by Amnesty International USA, Council for Global
Equality, European Roma Rights Center, Freedom House, Human Rights
Watch, Open Society Institute, and the Public Interest Law Institute,
the groups noted Secretary Clinton's long-term commitment to promoting
the rights of Roma and urged the U.S. State Department to specifically
address the ongoing situation in France.

Across Europe, Roma are currently facing an array of discriminatory and segregatorypolicies.
Increasingly, Roma individuals and communities are victimized by
private acts of bias-motivated violence, or hate crime, that further
threatens the security of this vulnerable population. On numerous
occasions, the United States has pronounced its motivation to combat
discrimination, segregation, and violence against Roma.

"Your support would not only draw attention to this particular
violation of human rights, but also signal to other countries where Roma
are facing significant challenges that the U.S. takes seriously
discrimination and collective action against ethnic minorities," the
groups' letter to Secretary Clinton notes.

Since July 2010, the French government has dismantled two hundred
camps populated by Roma and Traveler groups. It has also expelled
approximately 1,230 Roma individuals from France back to their countries
of origin, mainly Romania and Bulgaria, though a variety of means such
as mandatory deportation orders and so-called "voluntary" repatriations.
Rights groups maintain that such singling out of a particular ethnic
group for law enforcement action is impermissible, and the French
expulsions appear to violate numerous due process guarantees provided
for by European Union (E.U.) law.

E.U. laws assert the right of each E.U. citizen to move freely across
the territories of its 27 member states. The European Commission, the
executive body responsible for enforcing E.U. laws, is currently
evaluating if France's actions are in compliance with the E.U. Charter
of Fundamental Rights, as well as Directive 2004/38/EC.
According to the rules, individuals who no longer fulfill residency
requirements can only be expelled if the decision is proportionate and
sent to them one month in advance "in writing, fully justified and open
to appeal." Collective expulsions are prohibited--as is ethnic
profiling--and each case must be studied separately.

"Since you have championed human rights and Roma rights in
particular, your response to these expulsions is critical. We urge you
to speak today to show political condemnation of France's handling of
the Roma evictions and expulsions, as well as the negative stereotyping
of Roma by French politicians. The alternative--silence--may only
undermine the security and safety of Roma throughout Europe," the
groups' letter

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.