220,000. This is how many Roma gypsies were murdered by the Nazi’s, roughly 25% of the total Roma population living in Europe at that time. The reason I know that figure is because I have Roma roots, my great-grandmother being a Scottish Traveler and my great-grandfather being an English Romany gypsy.
Therefore I have strong feelings about Sarkozy’s deportations of Roma Gypsies to Romania and Bulgaria over the summer, an act which today has been rightly criticised by EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. France is clearly violating EU law, which bans discrimination against any ethnic group or nationality.
French authorities have tried to defend the deportations by linking the Roma community with organised crime however many see what is happening as an appeal by Sarkozy to the right wing as he sees his poll ratings collapse.
A leaked memo recently contradicted assurances to EU officials from the French government that immigrants were being treated on a case-by-case basis.
The memo, dated 5 August, was sent from the interior ministry to regional police chiefs.
“Three hundred camps or illegal settlements must be cleared within three months, Roma camps are a priority,” it said.
Imagine the uproar if the French government started deporting Scots, English and Welsh who have retired to Provence, Britanny or the Dordogne. While Sarkozy’s latest actions can’t be compared with what happened to the Gypsies under the Nazi’s, they do provide an important opportunity to stop and take stock of why the founding values of the European Union are so important.
Kushti Bok, is Romany for ‘Good Luck’ and I wish Viviane Reding ‘Kushti Bok’ in her fight to start legal proceedings by the EU Commission over France’s treatment of the Roma.