Roma groups have threatened to sue French interior minister for incitement to racial hatred, amid a controversial policy of dismantling their camps. The warning came after Le Figaro published an interview with Manuel Valls on Friday, where he accused Roma people of not wanting to integrate into the society. This comes while advocates consider the comments as “concentrated lies" designed to smear the entire community. In a response to the comments, advocates are also considering filing a complaint under French law as well as reporting the minister’s statements to the European Union (EU).
“What is he trying to do apart from scapegoat the Roma population in the media. Not only does he target a minority on an ethnic and racial basis- which is illegal- his words legitimize the arguments of racists and xenophobes," responded Founder of the collective Romeurope, Laurent el-Ghozi.Valls told media on March 14 that Paris would continue to dismantle Roma groups’ temporary camps, adding that around 20 removals have been approved by a French court. The country has come under fire by the EU, United Nations’ human rights arm and other watchdogs, which constantly question the legality of France’s policy of systematically tearing down the camps and sending back Roma people to Bulgaria and Romania. According to the European Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AEDH), almost 12,000 of the 20,000 ethnic Roma were driven out from their camps nationwide, in 2012. However, as Valls has also confirmed, the raids have proved to be unsuccessful, since the population remains unchanged. France offers free air tickets and financial incentives for those Roma, who accept to return to their countries of origin. Under the European Union freedom of movement rules, French officials cannot deny Roma people entering France or returning to the country after being repatriated. CAH/PR