French police in fresh move to dismantle Roma camps
LYON, France - Agence France-Presse
A boy of the Roma community is pictured in a camp of caravans called "Area16" on August 27, 2012 in Strasbourg, eastern France. The "Area 16" in Strasbourg was opened in October 2011 by the City of Strasbourg. It currently accommodates 70 people in 26 caravans, funded by the municipality. Residents have water, electricity and special social support to facilitate their integration into French society. TOPSHOTS/AFP PHOTO/FREDERICK FLORINFrench police moved in Tuesday to dismantle a Roma camp for the second day in a row, a week after the government promised a fresh approach in its controversial handling of the ethnic minority migrants.
The latest operation took place on the outskirts of the east-central city of Lyon where about 120 Roma men, women and children were being moved out of the waste ground they had been living on for several months, local officials said.
On Monday, police dismantled a Roma camp near Paris, sweeping 70 people, including 19 children, onto the streets.
An estimated 15,000 ethnic Roma currently live in illegal camps across France and their presence, almost invariably the subject of hostility from local residents, has become a major political headache for the ruling Socialists.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls has continued the previous administration's approach of periodically dismantling camps and offering free flights and financial incentives for Roma to return to their countries of origin.
But the policy, decried as reminiscent of Nazi-era persecution when it was launched by former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010, has had little impact on overall numbers and Valls has come under fire from some of his own colleagues, human rights groups and the European Commission.
The government moved last week to appease critics by announcing that it would ease restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants' access to the jobs market.
It also said clearances would only be carried out on the basis of court orders and ideally with a plan for alternative accommodation having been established first.