France/EU: Roma: Circulars about operations to evict illegal camps

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The publication on 9 September 2010 by Le Canard Social of three circulars from the interior ministry containing instructions for police prefects concerning the eviction of illegal camps and the treatment of their residents, one of which belied reassurances given to the Commission by Besson and the minister for relations with the EU, Pierre Lellouche. The ministers had assured that people who were being returned were being dealt with merely as Bulgarian and Romanian citizens who did not fulfil residence requirements. This drew an angry reaction from Commissioner Reding, who announced that the Commission was examing the possibility of intiating infringement proceedings against France. Le Canard Social asked Loïc Bourgeois, a lawyer who is a specialist in defending Roma people for comments on the documents. He argued that the 24 June 2010 circular "is not a matter of the supposed annoyance that is caused by the Roma [although it only mentions camps] which is discussed here, but rather, the fierce will to use all available means for the utilitarian purpose of expelling this community". Bourgeois added that there have "rarely" been "such circulars that relentlessly detail all the legal resorts to undermine a population". In his view, the circular of 5 August marked a shift insofar as "it stigmatises an ethnic group", whereas "up to that point, this type of interpretative circulars targeted a social category, for example the poor through the offence of begging".

The circular issued on 5 August contained detailed instructions and developed the guidelines received by prefects on 24 June about operations to evict irregular camps and expel, return or seek to bring charges against their residents, that were quite explicit:

"The President of the Republic has set some precise goals on the past 28 July, for the eviction of illegal camps; 300 illegal camps or settlements will have to be evicted within three months, among which Roma ones are a priority".

Its tone is striking, and does not require much commentary. The prefects of each department are held responsible for enacting a "systematic method for dismantling the illegal camps, among which Roma ones are a priority". The document adds that the legal and operational measures required to reach the scope must be identified without delay for each of the sites. It also claims that operations carried out since 28 July gave rise to a number of removals that was "too limited". The operation is described as a "strong commitment" by the government to ensure that "the state's authority is respected", and a "complete personal mobilisation" is "required" of prefects and "all the services, especially against the illegal camps of Roma people". "In-depth preparation" of the actions by all the relevant services is required, "in particular PAF [the border police, police aux frontières] and OFII [French immigration and integration office] for Roma camps". The instructions order "evictions" and "immediate returns to the border for foreigners in an irregular situation", and "systematically" initiating judicial procedures and social and tax controls in sites that cannot be immediately evicted. Roma people are explicitly mentioned again with regards to "preventing the establishment of new illegal Roma camps".

It ends by stating:

"In view of the set objectives… in their area of competence, area prefects will ensure the carrying out of at least one important operation (eviction/dismantling/removal) per week, which will primarly concern Roma people".


1. Le Canard Social, "Expulsions de Roms, un "mode d'emploi" explicite", 9.9.2010
2. Interior and Immigration Ministry Circular, 24.6.2010
3. Interior ministry circular, 5.8.2010
4. Interior ministry circular, 9.8.2010

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