France's Roma Row: An Examination of the French Government's Violation of EU and International Law

42 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2017

See all articles by Bradford Kelley

Bradford Kelley

Private Practice

Chase Edwards

University of Louisiana at Lafayette - Department of Economics and Finance

Date Written: May 16, 2017


The French government has continued to generate considerable controversy over its eviction of the Roma from their makeshift camps throughout the country. The Roma, Europe's largest and most vulnerable minority, are often victims of discrimination and social exclusion. A 2012 campaign showcased the French government’s strategy to dismantle itinerant camps and expel the Roma living in France without residence permits by forcibly deporting individuals back to their nations of origin, namely Romania and Bulgaria. The French raids left hundreds of Roma, including many children, homeless after caravans were seized and no arrangements for temporary housing were made. Sadly, the 2012 campaign was not an anomaly, and bore many similarities to the 2010 Roma evictions in France that resulted in sanctions against France by the European Commission and generated a considerable backlash from the international community. The French government defends the latest eviction efforts by arguing that the expulsions are necessary for public health and safety. Despite serious concerns over discrimination and freedom of movement violations, the European Union (EU) remains noncommittal in addressing the problem. The EU claims it is closely monitoring the situation to ensure that the evictions are consistent with EU laws regarding the free movement of people, and France’s Interior Ministry insists that the camps are always demolished in accordance with EU legal guidelines. However, available evidence shows otherwise. Furthermore, history demonstrates that the timid response of the EU is unacceptable, given that the 2010 evictions of the Roma led to deeper poverty and heightened disenfranchisement. The current eviction policies are an unfortunate case of the government ignoring the situation rather than addressing the systematic root of the problem: the failure to properly assimilate the Roma within France. This paper examines whether the 2012 French evictions of the Roma violated EU and international law. Part I provides an overview of the history and culture of the Roma, and details the dark and deep history of discrimination against the Roma. Part II then discusses pre-2010 policies, the 2010 evictions, and the 2012 evictions — and concludes that there is little, if any, difference between the 2010 and 2012 eviction policies. Part III discusses relevant EU law, notably the 2004 EU Directive on Freedom of Movement, a far-reaching piece of legislation that guarantees any EU citizen the right to cross Member State borders and limits the opportunity for their removal. Part III also examines the role of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Part IV explains why France’s 2012 evictions violate EU and international laws, arguing that the Roma have been expelled without due consideration of each individual case and that as a people, they have been specifically and categorically targeted in a discriminatory manner. Finally, Part V explores solutions that may be available for the Roma and ultimately argues that a multi-pronged strategy is required.

Keywords: Roma, migration, European Union, France, immigration, Romania, Bulgaria, deportation, minority, discrimination, human rights

JEL Classification: K33, K37, J61, J68

Suggested Citation

Kelley, Bradford and Edwards, Chase, France's Roma Row: An Examination of the French Government's Violation of EU and International Law (May 16, 2017). Willamette Journal of International Law and Dispute Resolution, Vol. 24, No. 2, 2017, Available at SSRN:

Bradford Kelley

Private Practice ( email )

United States

Chase Edwards (Contact Author)

University of Louisiana at Lafayette - Department of Economics and Finance ( email )

Lafayette, LA 70504
United States

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