The strong condemnation by the European commissioner for fundamental rights, Viviane Reding, of France’s expulsion of Roma to Romania and Bulgaria sends a powerful message against discrimination, Human Rights Watch said today. At a midday briefing in Brussels, Reding said she was personally convinced that the European Commission would have to initiate infringement proceedings against France for a discriminatory application of European Union law on freedom of movement.
A special charter flight to Bucharest took off on September 14, 2010, from Marseilles with about 100 Roma adults and children, despite a European Parliament resolution on September 9 calling on France to suspend the expulsions. Another flight left Paris the same day with 130 people aboard. European parliamentarians had urged the Commission to take action during a fierce debate last week in Strasbourg.
“Reding’s forceful statement comes not a moment too soon,” said Benjamin Ward, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The French government needs to heed the calls from Brussels and halt this abusive policy.” According to official figures, 979 Romanian and Bulgarian Roma were expelled between July 28 and August 27. Almost half were removed on special flights, while the rest were put on regular commercial flights. Many of those returned had been evicted from informal settlements. Another charter flight is scheduled for September 30.