Traveller and Roma evictions in France

Traveller and Roma evictions in France

France is in the process of kicking out Roma groups at the moment and evicting travellers from the land they live on.

In France, Sarkozy and co. are playing the race card - and the anti-traveller card - very overtly and crudely in order to divert attention from the rulers' attacks. There are cop attacks everywhere on Roma and on travellers in general - over 40 evictions in just over 2 weeks. Last Sunday (15th August), in Bordeaux, French travellers (many of them travelling to sell their goods outside their normal residential area) blocked a vital bridge for several hours - this, on the day half of France return from their holidays to go to work the next day, caused a great deal of havoc. Being French, they seemed to accept the dominant divide and rule between different travellers, insisting that they were not Roma and waving the French flag. There was a fairly big confrontation with the riot cops.

In other parts of France the cops divide the Roma men from the women & kids before evicting them, causing at least one notable of the governing UMP to compare the tactic with the nazis (there are clearly divisions within the ruling class about Sarkozy - fear of provoking a dangerous opposition is uppermost in their thoughts; Obama and Merkel have been quoted, apparently, as saying they want him replaced - they want someone a bit subtler). No surprise really - the Minister of the Interior, Hortefeux, used to be in a fascist organisation as a student, and hasn't changed. Besson, the Minister of Immigration, said "France is the country in Europe which is the most respectful of the rights of foreigners".

A 70-something guy shot, and gravely injured in the stomach, 2 unarmed Roma women who were trying to burgle his house (August 5th); over 5000 people signed a petition, which seems to have been initiated by a fascist organisation - "Ligue du Midi", to have him released; he's quoted as saying, "This race must be exterminated". Most of the signatures come from neighbours in his village, but clearly there are plenty of others. The roads around are covered in graffiti: "A whole village is angry", "Free our friend Réné", Justice for you" etc.

At the moment Romania adults are paid 300 euros (kids 100 euros) to go back to Romania, but EU law means they have the right to return - so the government are thinking of changing the law, though whether the EU will allow it is doubtful.Yesterday was the 27th flight this year, and a Roumanian woman said "This is a way for the government to subsidise the airline companies". She bought a very cheap car with part of the money and is using the rest to go back to France.

A national demonstration of solidarity with the Roma is planned for September 4th.

Posted By

Aug 21 2010 09:12


Attached files


Aug 21 2010 13:48

Samotnaf, can you elaborate on Hortefeux's background a bit?

Aug 21 2010 17:28

Very quickly - everyone in the anarcho-situ-autonomist-libertarian type scene knows about his past (including a friend of mine who went to a lycée in Paris which was just next to the Faculté Alsace where Hortefeux was in a fascist group); but apparently he's made quite an effort to eradicate the traces of this past - but I'll try to find out more.

Aug 22 2010 05:16
Samotnaf, can you elaborate on Hortefeux's background a bit?

Got the name of the faculty (see above) where Hortefeux studied wrong (misheard over the phone) - it was "la faculté d’Assas" (not "Alsace"), where he was a member of the Groupe Union Droit , a fascist group of the time - late 70s, early 80s (in fact, though some of the internet stuff on his past seems to have disappeared, much of it still remains).

From Wikipedia in English (the French version does not reproduce this conversation):

On September 10, 2009, Newspaper Le Monde disclosed a video showing Brice Hortefeux at the UMP Summer School on Saturday September 5, 2009. As he is posing for a photograph with a young man of Arabic origin, the following conversation can be heard (translation):

Female voice - He does speak Arabic, yet he eats pork and drinks beer!

Mr. Hortefeux - Oh really? Well, he does not match the prototype [wikipedia transaltion: "stereotype" seems more likely] at all!

Female voice - He is one of us... he is our little Arab.

Mr. Hortefeux - There is always one! When there is only one, it's okay. It's when there are many that problems begin.

In June 2010 a French court found Hortefeux guilty of racial insult and fined him 750 euros with an order to donate 2000 euros to an anti-racism group. Hortefeux' lawyer announced that they would be appealing against the ruling.

Before that, in November 2008, at a large European conference on immigration, he proposed that the next large meeting of the EU about immigration controls should take place in Vichy - a town well-known for having voted for all the scary xenophobic laws of 1940.

As Minister of the Interior he sets the necessary level of numbers of arrests etc. for the cops to get their bonuses (poor cops - they're being forced into productivity-related pay, like any common wage slave); the numbers of expulsions of sans papiers was set at 25,000 in 2007, 26,000 in 2008 and 28,000 in 2010, but in fact these levels are never remotely achieved (less than half) - so, I suspect, the cops try to include Roumanians and Bulgarians in the figures. But the absurdity of this productivity-related pay policy can be seen in the following anecdote:

A guy who works legally in Belgium, but has his family legally living in Spain, was arrested (for not having French documents) at the Belgium border on his way by coach back to Spain, put in a refugee camp for 3 months, and then sent by the French State back to Spain - all to give the cop his bonus. Doesn't make even capitalist "sense": the cost of keeping him in a miserable camp and of paying for his journey back (when he'd already had a ticket) ran into several thousands of pounds. But if it looks good in the statstics, it appeals to the xenophobia of French spectators. This is just one story that managed to get publicity on TV. How many never get that kind of limelight?

This is the world of Hortefeux - the Godfather.....of Sharkozy's most famous and most politically ambitious son (Jean).

And most important of all - he's got blue eyes and blond hair. Now, don't get me wrong here - I've got nothing against these people - some of my best friends are anti-semites...........................(in actual fact, he's very pro-Israel, of course; which doesn't necessarily clash with anti-semitism... but I digress...).

Aug 22 2010 15:41

For those who speak German or like pictures of people holding banners:

Aug 24 2010 06:06

It's obvious, particularly with the Pope trying to somehow re-makeover the Catholic Church's decrepid face by defending the Roma and being very publicly critical of Sarkozy and Hortefeux, that the Roma are being used by both the State and its false opposition, being used as an idea of "a special case", in order to make them be considered as something separate from other proletarians, in order for them not to be seen as a means of diverting from the general attacks on the working class everywhere throughout France (and elsewhere). The humanists and the Left want them integrated into the society of work etc. - even to the point of some of them wanting them to declare their revenue from begging for tax purposes.

And, by the way, the newly elected "King" (a democratic monarchy?) of the gypsies in Austria has a name very similar to Sarkozy; see this in French.

Aug 24 2010 19:50

Former UMP Prime Mini-stars - de Villepin and Raffarin - have joined the criticism of their party's leader; even top cops are publicly complaining - along the lines of "a lot of work and expense for too little result". A famous nurse has returned her "Legion of Honour" in protest, as has a priest his French equivalent of the Order of Merit, whilst Protestant and Catholic high-ups have joined forces in condemning the attacks. They're almost certainly frightened it might be a catalyst for something that might explode in their faces. Meantime, the government is claiming to be siding with the people against the elite - and at least one opinion poll gives Sharko over 70% support for the evictions. But with demonstrations against the reform of the age of retirement and other things bubbling beneath the surface, it could prove to be a hot autumn (temperatures round where I live are in the mid-to-upper-30s) if there are some initiatives independent of the unions, the humanist and religious charities and the political organisations. A big "if", but who knows?

Aug 25 2010 02:04

See this. Though it gives Sarkozy's support in the opinion polls at 36% maximum, that's for his overall policies; the figure of over 70% I gave above was from the right wing Figaro and from over a week ago, and specifically for support for his evictions of travellers in general; but it was from before the semi-riot in Bordeaux and the various solidarity demos and protests. Shows how fickle the spectators' opinions are...

By the way, the French equivalent of Special Branch (the Renseignement Générale) quite openly asks the liberal humanitarian organisations (League for Human Rights, 4th World, etc.) that have participated in some of the actions against evictions for information of the participants in these protests, though these organisations seem to usually refuse to give them anything (not sure what this is intended to do other than make people aware they're being kept track of, as if they didn't know; most of the information could be got simply by reading emails, etc.).

Aug 30 2010 19:21

More updates:
As if to confirm the obvious (though, sadly, it seems far too unobvious to many French travellers), Fillon, the French P.M. said on French radio this morning, "Nomad life is no longer compatable with modern life in Europe", and it seems that the UK too is cracking down on travellers.
A few facts about the racist hierarchy of misery enforced by the French ruling class:
Unlike, those from other EU countries, people from Roumania and Bulgaria have to have some visible means of support, proof of "resources", within 3 months of living here or face a complete cessation of State "benefits" and explulsion from the country.
The Office of French Immigration imposes a payment of 900 euros on Roumanians and Bulgarians for them to have the equivalent of a Green card - a carte de séjours, a card which the rest of the members of the EU do not have to have. This card is absolutely necessary for them to sell their labour officially.
Amongst most French companies, when wage slaves are made redundant (what a nice British expression), the Roumanians are always the first to be fired.
Within the last 2 months most major banks, almost certainly illegally and quite secretly, have decided on a policy of refusing bank accounts to Roumanians unless they rent or own in their own name - no-one sleeping on friends' floors or being housed by, and in the name of, charities and associations are allowed accounts, a rule that does not apply to anyone else apart from Roumanians.

Amongst Roma groupings, there is often a great deal of mutual animosity between those who are most "integrated" (ie where a majority have official work, kids regularly go to school, etc.) and those who are more marginalised and "precarious" (ie living off begging and/or thieving), the first not wanting to be associated with the latter, not wanting to be seen as "like them". Everyone wants to be seen as a special case, either at the bottom of the hierarchy or just one rung up or, like the travellers at Bordeaux, waving the French flag whilst confronting the CRS, 2 rungs up. There are a lot of travellers who live,with permission of the landownes, on private land; they somehow believe that they are not threatened by the attacks - but it is still of dubious legality to live in caravans even with this permission, and besides, cops can always be instructed to find a thousand things wong with their vehicles and confiscate them (Roma caravans are often destroyed in front of the TV cameras).
Given the enormous xenophobia of the more resigned French working class, the Roma are obviously very frightened, especially considering the shooting , and other attacks, mentioned above. Some workers quite openly say things like "Better they be sent to Auschwitz than they should work here", though the museum of horror Auschwitz has become is not what they have in mind. It was, of course, the gypsies and the "work-shy" who were the first to be sent to the "Arbeit Macht Frei" camps when Hitler first came to power. And France, remember, never even punished the French judges who sent off thousands to the camps after the Nazis occupied. And in the past (70s and early 80s), Stalinist councils were openly racist against sans papiers (the Socialists, I think, were slightly better).

But the demos on Saturday might be interesting - or they might just turn out to be the standard passive ritual displays of moral outrage.

Aug 31 2010 04:26

Just found out that the demo on 4th September, organised by leftists and humanists, is to unite an attack on Sarkozy and on the explusions with a celebration of the 140th anniversary, just before the Paris Commune, of the Third Republic ("liberty, equality, fraternity" is the banner on a petition against the expulsion of Roma by the left-liberal humanists - liberty for the bourgeoisie to massacre proletarians in revolt, equality of murderous treatment of proletarians in revolt, fraternity amongst the supporters of the massacres and murder of proletarians in revolt).
For those who read French, here's a critique by Ni patrie, ni frontières.

Aug 31 2010 09:36

thanks for these updates. (One quick thing, I edited the article above, but the spelling in English is "Romanians")

Sep 1 2010 10:28

Demonstration Against French Govt Roma Evictions,

Sat 4th Sept, Congregate at 1pm outside French Embassy (58 Knightsbridge)

We are organising a demonstration in London this Saturday outside the French Embassy (next to Hyde Park), against the recent policies of the French Government which have resulted in families with children as young as 2 weeks old being evicted with less than 30 minutes notice to gather their things and left homeless on the streets of France. Others have been packed onto planes with no choice and sent back to their home countries. Some of the Roma have lived in France all their lives. Others came from Romania or Bulgaria when they joined the EU in 2007.The EU of course guarantees "freedom of movement" but the French government is exploiting a loophole using the part of the legislation that expressly allows for restrictions on the right to move freely for reasons of public order, public security and public health.

The protests will be taking place simultaneously across Europe, organised by the European Network Against Racism and we have decided to lead on the UK demo, in a show of solidarity with our friends in France in demonstrating that policies of this sort is not acceptable by any Europen leader in Europe. It will also signal visibility of the wider repression and discrimination faced by the wider Gypsy, Roma Traveller Communities. Please get in touch with me ( if you can make the protest (as I need to confirm final numbers with the met police) or if you can help out in any other way, through spreading the word through mailing lists etc. Many Thanks for all your help and support,

Sep 1 2010 18:16

Really feel that any solidarity expressed should clearly distinguish itself from the legalistic ideology of the humanists and leftists: after all, the Ligue des Droits Humaines (league for human rights) quite explicitly wants - as I half-said before - the Romas to be accepted as being capable of providing for themselves (that's how they'd be allowed to stay) by making declarations to the Tax Office of their earnings from begging - imagine the extent of social control that would require to verify the accuracy of such accounting (though I suppose, you only need one in a hundred being sent to prison for making a false declaration, on the basis of some Tax Office surveillance team, to scare the rest, though perhaps even that wouldn't work...But apparently, tax people in various countries impose tax demands on prostitutes based on the estimates of their spies ...if their spouses complain about the way they got their information, they just say they were on the job...I digress...).

All the leftist parties are no different from de Villepin and Raffarin (ex-PMs from Sharko's ruling party ) in their fear that the State is going too far to the Right, and in doing so is declaring "war"; it reminds me of the Left during the 80s in their "critique" of Thatcher.
Look at this signed by various groupings such as the League for Human Rights, the trotskyist New Anti-capitalist Party, the former Stalinists in the French CP, the Socialist Party, the Greens, ATTAC, CFDT and CGT unions, Confederation Paysanne (Bove's former organisation), Association of France-Palestine Solidarity, etc etc etc:

"Us, diverse associations, unions and political organisations having in common our attachment to the fundamental principles of the laic, democratic and social Republic...appeal to all publicly demonstrate their opposition to these strategies of stigmatisation and discrimination and to the logic of "war" which threatens our living together, to speak together of our attachment to liberty, to equality and to fraternity which are and remain our common well-being

I'm tempted to ask the usual "what planet are these ideologists living on?" but sadly they are living on ours', trying to dampen the fires with platitudes confounded by experience and by giving with the left hand a tent or a sceptic toilet, whilst taking with the right any attempt to live a little independantly - outside and against the liberty of the economy, the inequality of reification, and the fraternity of exchangeable commodities, which are and remain our common lack of well-being.
The rich have been at war with the rest since time immemorial, but now that they're upping the stakes by too crudely dividing and trying to rule, the Middle class (and sections of the ruling class) is frightened it might all turn far too overtly nastier - how they must be worried by the possibility that, for example, an ambush on a cop car by 30 youths on an estate yesterday, which was given lots of publicity because one of the cops was hospitalised and no-one has so far been nicked, is just a tiny example of the future that Sharko might stupidly provoke; the left-humanists of capital accummulation want things to be done subtler...