The Roma Expulsion/Deportation Policy in France

There is no doubt that France is one of the most diverse nations in the world. This diversity has been an interesting topic to talk about even for the French people themselves. Talking about diversity and immigration, we also need to talk about immigration, because immigration has been one of the biggest factors that brings diversity to French’s society. There is a really good saying in French, “le monde sans frontières” which means “the world without borders”. This is to show how supportive the French societies are to the idea of multiculturalism and diversity. 

src: www.focus-fen.net
However, immigration has also brought a big problem for France. The Immigration workers in France have been one of the biggest concern by the “native” French people. I believe the biggest problem concerning the immigration workers in France is the issue of deportation and expulsion.

Deportation has been one of the most important as well as sensitive issues in the world. In France, the issue of deportation has been one of the issue that keep discussed by the media, politicians as well as the public of France. According to Wordnetweb.princeton.edu, deportation is the act of expelling a person from their native land or the expulsion from a country of an undesirable alien. [1]

It is almost impossible to separate the issue of deportation with the issue of immigration. Let’s first talk about the immigration history and problems in France. Guiraudon described in Immigration Policy in France that:

“Despite the socioeconomic restructuring and economic downturns since the 1970’s, France has nonetheless continued to receive legal immigrants, with approximately 100,000 new per year. The legal flows have included EU migrants who enjoy free movement rights, family members of legal residents, whose rights are protected by domestic law, and refugees and asylum-seekers admitted on the basis of constitutional and international law. These are mainly unsolicited migrants, those whose rights of entry and stay guaranteed by constitutional norms and international agreements.”[2]

I believe that this situation has worsen the situation regarding the immigrant workers in France. The fact that since 1970s French employers have not needed any immigrant workers, while the immigrant keep coming to France made the public fed up with this immigrant issues.
Guiraudon furthermore explained that:

 “The largest immigration wave in French history lasted from approximately 1956 to 1973, followed by sporadic granting asylum to political refugees that fled Southeast Asia, or more precisely Siam. After the worldwide OPEC oil crisis and an international economic slowdown, however France’s suffering economy could no longer sustain the levels of immigration from the 1950s and 60s.” [3]

However, interestingly enough, France’s Conseil d’Etat, its highest administrative court, as explained by Guiraudon “has since the late 1970s played a key role in defending these groups. As successive governments have sought to stem migration flows and to issue more expulsion orders, France’s high court have entered the fray of immigration politics.” [4]

This, I believe, made the situation even worse since it was not really clear what were the legal reasoning behind this supports. Nonetheless, these supports have been a really interesting episode of the history of immigrant workers in France. This was also the beginning of other groups in France who support the right the existence of the immigrant (legal or illegal) workers in France. 

If we look into the statistic in 2008, as stated by Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques (INSEE) or the French national institute of statistics, that there were approximately 11.8 million foreign-born immigrants in French (representing 19% of the country’s population).

Still in Immigration in French, Guiraudon described that “although the percentage of foreigners in the French population remains above the EU average of 4.4 percent, France is the only EU member state, and OECD country, where the number of immigrants has decreased over this period.” [5]

This huge number of immigrant workers in France make the French government thinks for solution in how to decrease the number of immigrants in France. Perhaps, the biggest controversial regarding the expulsion or deportation of the immigrant in France was the Roma expulsion policy. 

In France’s Expulsion of Roma Migrants: A Test Case for Europe, Severances explained that:

“The term Roma is the most commonly used umbrella description for a group of people who originally migrated from India nearly 1,000 years ago. “Roma” encompasses a variety of ethnic subgroups and is sometimes used interchangeably with “gypsy” or “traveler”, however, does not necessarily signify the same population. In France, many travelers, who are largely itinerant French nationals some of whom live in caravans, view themselves as separate from the Roma.”[6]

As reported by EurActive.com in 2012, “In August 2012, rights groups have accused France’s Socialist leaders of abandoning electoral promises by continuing the arbitrary expulsions of Eastern European Roma that were begun under former President Nicolas Sarkozy.” [7]
In addition, Labbe in his article EU says monitoring France over wave of Roma expulsions, explained that:
“In 2009, official figures recorded that 11,000 Roma were expelled from France. [8] In 2010,  Sarkozy’s government launched a robust defense of its widely criticized crackdown on Gypsy immigrants in France. Still in 2010, just a week before convening a meeting of several European interior ministers in Paris to drum up support for the hardline policy and to seek to extend it across the EU, senior French officials told the European commission in Brussels that the demolition of Roma camps and the expulsions of hundreds of families, mainly from Romania, were in line with freedom of movement laws inside the EU. “[9]

Nonetheless, it is my firm believes that this was not the solution to the problem regarding the immigrant workers in France. Moreover, this policy, even bring political unrest to the French National politic, more importantly, this also drive many public opinion that ultimately never will solve the very problem it wish to solve. 

As reported by BBC, in July 2010, 
“Dozens of French Roma armed with hatchets and iron bars attacked a police station, hacked down trees and burned cars in the small Loire Valley town of Saint Aignan. The riot erupted after a gendarme shot and killed a French Roma, 22-year-old Luigi Duquenet, who officials said had driven through a police checkpoint, knocking over a policeman. Media reports suggested he had been involved in a burglary earlier that day.”[10]

Fortunately, on the other hand, as reported by Reuters “the European Union is closely watching this policy. The European Union is closely watching how France expels members of the Roma community to ensure their removal is consistent with the bloc’s rules on the free movement of people.”[11]

However, in 2011, Aljazeera has reported that
“A leading European rights watchdog says France’s expulsion of Gypsies last year violated their rights. As reported by Aljazeera.com, a report by the Council of Europe issued on Thursday said the expulsions of more that 1,000 Gypsy immigrants, also called Roma, and the demolition of hundreds of illegal Roma camps were “discriminatory” and “contrary to human dignity”. Constitution an “aggravated violation of human rights””.[12]

Moreover, on 2010, BBC reported that “EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding described the deportations as a “disgrace” and the European Commission took a first step towards legal action against France. On September 2010, the Commission told France that it had two weeks to start implementing a 2004 EU directive on freedom of movement. France was warned that it would face an official EU “infringement momentum” if it failed to do so. The directive sets out the rules for deportation cases.”

I believe that this policy will find a dead end in the future, because as profoundly explained by BBC in the Q&A: France Roma expulsion, that
“…basically they (the immigrants from Romania who are also citizens of the EU) have the right to enter France without a visa, but under special rules they must have work or residency permits if they wish to stay longer than three months. These are hard to come by, and most Roma from the two countries are thought to be in France illegally. Nine other EU states also have restrictions in place, typically requiring work permits. From January 2014, or seven years after the two countries' accession, Romanians and Bulgarians will enjoy full freedom of movement anywhere in the EU.”[13]

This immature policy of France has caused not only a trouble for the nation but also for the EU. I believe, it is so important to know and solve the very problem of this matter rather than just sending (deporting) people from one country to another which never will solve the problem itself.

Unfortunately, the problem of the Gypsies or travelers here is not only concerning economy but also psychology. Many immigrants who have stayed in France for their whole life time (especially for the second generation immigrants) will find it really hard to adapt in a new country in such a rush.
First, most of the second generation immigrants in France right now speak only French language, if they are then deported to a non-French speaking countries, it will be a real big problem. Second, most of the immigrants (especially the second and the third generation) are still very young, this being said, they still do not have the skills needed to get a decent job and their life. 

Third, if the world and especially the EU let this policy be executed, there is a big probability that many countries will follow the French’s policy in this matter, which is, by definition will bring chaotic situation to EU as well as the world. 

That is way I believe that deportation or expulsion is not and never will be the solution to this problem. This is a very systematic problem, thus should be solved by a systematic solution as well. For example, it is important to start with giving this immigrant enough skills and education so that in the future it will be easier for them to find a job as well as not become the parasite of society as criminals. 

In the end of the day, it is really a big challenge to the EU to accommodate this problem as well as solving this problem not only in the context of “Immigrants from Romania or Bulgaria” but also in the context of “Immigrant of Romanian as the citizen of the EU”.


[2] Guiraudon, Virgine. (2002). Immigration Policy in France. National Center for Scientific Research, p. 1-4.
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid
[6]Severance, Kristi. (2010). France’s Expulsion of Roma Migrants: A Test Case for Europe. Retrieved April 24, 2013, from  http://www.migrationinformation.org/Feature/display.cfm?ID=803
[7] EurActive.com. (2012). French Cabinet Under Fire Over Roma Expulsions. Retrieved April 24, 2013 http://www.euractiv.com/socialeurope/new-french-cabinet-fire-roma-exp-news-514281
[8] Labbe, Chine. (2012). EU says monitoring France over wave of Roma expulsions. Retrieved April 24, 2013 http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/10/us-france-roma-eu-idUSBRE87912S20120810
[9] Traynor, Ian. (2010). France defends Roma expulsions. Retrieved April 24, 2013 http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/31/france-defends-roma-expulsions
[10]BBC.co.uk. (2010). Q&A: France Roma expulsion. Retrieved April 24, 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11027288
[11] Labbe, Chine.. (2012). EU says monitoring France over wave of Roma expulsions. Retrieved April 24, 2013 http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/10/us-france-roma-eu-idUSBRE87912S20120810
[12]Aljazeera.com.. (2011). Rights body condemns French Roma expulsion. Retrieved April 24, 2013  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2011/11/20111110201357532347.html
[13]BBC.co.uk. (2010). Q&A: France Roma expulsion. Retrieved April 24, 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11027288