Target: French President François Hollande
Goal: End inhumane expulsions of ethnic Roma from French encampments
Despite campaign promises to find “alternative solutions” to razing Roma encampments, current French President François Hollande has followed his predecessor’s aggressive tactics in dealing with Europe’s most marginalized minority. Hollande’s expulsion policies have left more than 2,000 Roma essentially homeless, further demoralizing a people already impeded by extreme poverty, high rates of illiteracy, and discrimination across Europe. Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 foreign Roma live within France, and, despite the illegality of their encampments, this population has remained consistent since the end of the Cold War. Now, French police, acting on behalf of the new Socialist government, began dismantling Roma encampments in early August on the grounds of unsanitary conditions and crime deemed a danger to public health and safety.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has expressed her concern that the French policies will amplify an already disastrous human rights situation, particularly harming women, children, the sick, and the disabled. And, despite recent government efforts to integrate Roma into French society through a greater access to jobs, the Council of Europe—Europe’s primary human rights advocate—sees such integration policies as insufficient. While French officials claim that lifting restrictions placed on Roma employees goes hand-in-hand with the dismantling of the camps, the Council says that long-term reforms concerning education, housing, and healthcare, as well as employment, are needed if true integration is to be achieved.
Regardless of political claims for integration, camps outside Paris, Lille, and Lyon have already been destroyed and their destitute residents deported or scattered. While those individuals who volunteer to leave France can receive as much as 300 euros and a plane ticket back to their home country—usually Bulgaria or Romania—there is little more than poverty and discrimination awaiting them. More often than not, deported Roma return to France, still unable to survive in the country they fled in the first place. Likewise, French police recognize that those Roma whom they evict from illegal encampments will most likely simply move to a new site, exacerbating the problem and causing further hardship to an already impoverished population.
In the midst of such extreme human suffering, it falls to President Hollande and his administration to stand up to political pressure advocating a quick-fix solution and enact policies that ensure the safety and basic human dignity of all those residing within French borders.
Dear President François Hollande,
The policies enacted against foreign Roma residing within France have resulted in the tragic violation of the human rights of Europe’s most marginalized population. With more than 2,000 Roma left homeless in the wake of the destruction of their homes, an unfair burden has been placed on some of society’s most vulnerable members, including children, the sick, and the disabled. Deportation is not the answer; history has shown that Roma populations can expect poverty and discrimination in their home countries of Bulgaria and Romania.
I urge you to make good on your campaign promises to better serve such an impoverished population. Make France an example that other countries riddled by discrimination and hate can emulate. As the Council of Europe has advised, strive to formulate policies that reform education, housing, healthcare, and employment in an effort to achieve a truly integrated society. Integration at home can lead to a better integrated Europe and pave the way towards a better future for all marginalized peoples. Please take action to ensure the basic human rights that are being denied thousands of people living within your borders.
[Your Name Here]
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