Europe must act on Roma expulsions, says UN racism committee

The UN’s anti-racism committee is to call on the European Union to act to improve the conditions of the Roma, in the light of France’s controversial collective deportation programme. The committee, meeting in Geneva, urged President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government to “avoid in particular collective repatriation”.

The 18-member Committee on the Eliminaton of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is to send a letter to the European Commission and the Council of Europe pointing out that the Roma question requires a Europe-wide response.

Such action is only taken in “particularly serious” situations where there are “extremely worrying signs of widespread racial discrimination”, sources close to the committee told the AFP wire service.

The committee judged that the Roma are “subject to a rise … in racist violence”.

Another 283 Roma were deported on Thursday, bringing this year’s total to 8,313, according to Immigration Minister Eric Besson. Last year 7,875 were thrown out of the country.

“Our concern is that the removal or return of the Roma has been done on a collective basis rather than examining their individual circumstances so it gives the appearance that a group has been identified rather than individuals,” said panel member Pierre-Richard Prosper.

The CERD also said it was worried by “political speeches of a discriminatory nature”, which come amid a rise in racist and xenophobic behaviour.

The panel also condemned the government’s threat to withdraw French nationality from anyone found attempting to murder a police officer, saying that it has “discriminatory consequences based on national origins”.

On a visit to Paris on Thursday, the Romanian junior minister in charge of Roma integration, Valentin Mocanu, warned France against a drift towards “racism and xenophobia”.

Prime Minister François Fillon told France’s ambassadors that it is their duty to defend the policy at the annual meeting of diplomats on Thursday.

Calling on the government’s critics to measure their words more carefully when comparing the repatriations to the actions of the wartime Pétain government, Fillon told the ambassadors that it is part of their job to “explain and defend the French position”.