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Expulsion of gypsies

Updated: Jan 15, 2019

Table of Contents

1. The status of Romanian gypsies according to EU law

After analysing Romania’s Accession Treaty to the European Union and all the restrictions concerning the free movement of Romanian workers, I will now discuss the controversial issue of Romanian gypsies. I will analyse the status of Romanian gypsies according to EU law. One might argue that the negative image of Romanians in the Member States and the reason why they at times are discriminated is partly due to the Romanian gypsies. One of the reasons why some EU countries closed their job market to Romanian workers until 2014 might be linked to the fact that among the Romanians benefiting from all the freedoms in the EU treaty, there are the Romanian gypsies. I will first briefly present some facts about the Roma community, before analysing the issue further.

The Roma are one of the oldest surviving minorities in Europe. Linguists demonstrated the fact that the Roma descend from North Indian castes which left to migrate across Europe between the years 500 and AD 1000. The name Gypsy is a name derived from the term –Egyptian. When Gypsies began to arrive in England from Egypt they were identified as being different by the color of their skin and dress so they were attributed to the Egyptean origin. After their settlement in Europe their number started to increase and recent estimates place the Romany population of Europe at around ten million people.

It is hard to speak about the Roma community without talking about racism. The degree of discrimination and hostility they face from the rest of the society is a well known fact. This could be considered the biggest factor in their identification, that of a transnational minority. The degree of discrimination that they are confronted with does not exist only in a region of Europe, but across Europe: “The problem of anti-Roma prejudice and discrimination while more acutely felt in Central and Eastern Europe is by no means confined to this region. Indeed, recent inflammatory reports in the British press demonstrate the deep seated hostility towards Gypsies, particularly to those continue to adopt a nomadic way of life in the face of great adversity”

The Persecution of Roma across Europe is well documented. Alongside Jews, gays and the disabled, they were targeted by the Nazis for extermination. But while European views on Judaism, homosexuality and disability have come on in leaps and bounds in the past six decades, the attitude towards the Roma still drips with prejudice.

Josephine Verspaget, a Rapporteur for the Council of Europe, highlighted the position of disadvantage common to most Roma: “The position of many groups of Gypsies can be compared to the situation in the third world: little education; bad housing; bad hygienic situation; high birth rate; high infarct mortality; no knowledge or means to improve the situation; low life expectancy. If nothing is done, the situation for most gypsies will only worsen in the next generation”. (O`Nions, Helen, Minority rights, Protection in International Law, ed Ashgate, 2008.)

Analysing criminality in the Roma community is a very sensitive topic. As previously mentioned, gypsies represent the most discriminated minority group in Europe. One of the explanations given for this hatred towards them is the „criminal mind” they have. People have the impression that gypsies cannot adapt properly in a society this being the reason why they will always try to abuse the system.

Yet, how can people talk about gypsy criminality when there are no numbers, no statistics made about that? As previously mentioned it is hard to track them, because most of them will not admit their culture, they will not reveal it because they are afraid of discrimination. In Europe there is no body of control, that has numbers regarding gypsies that are beggars, or those who have been imprisoned, so it is actually very hard to say how many of them are actual thieves and how many of them are just victims of un unfair system.

A model that can be set as an example is the American model in my opinion, meaning the BJS ( Bureau of Justice Statistics) which is an interesting system, because it collects, analyses, reports statistical data on activities in the nation`s criminal justice system.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics maintains data on the race and ethnicity of the victims of crime obtained through a national household survey; the race of offenders as reported by victims; and the race of inmates in local jails, state prisons, and federal prisons and Courts. Data are also collected on the race of law enforcement officers through a survey of police agencies. This body of information can be used in policymaking to ensure fairness in justice administration and to develop programs that address the issues, problems or services peculiar to specific groups.(

2. The expulsion of gypsies from European countries

As I previously mentioned another focus in my paper is the status of gypsies as EU citizens, their rights and obligations in the European Union. I will try to answer several questions, such as: Are they still the most discriminated group of Europe? How can their situation improve? I will try to answer these questions by presenting some case law, analysing their experiences in France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

2.1. Facts concerning the expulsion of Gypsies from France, Italy and the United Kingdom

In this subchapter I will present the facts that revolve around the expulsion of Gypsies from countries such as France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

In the situation of France, this case got the international media`s attention. Using the police, the French government in 2011 broke up the gypsy camps around the country, including areas in Lille, Lyon, Paris, Marseilles and others. As a cosequence over 200 gypsies have been deported to Romania in a move, motivated by the Government by health, sanitation and security. The people from the Roma community that actually accepted the repatriation received 300 euros per adult and 150 per child, this also being a controversial measure because a lot of people believed that they would use the money to return to France. ( )

In the case of Italy, in main cities such as Milan, Rome and Naples the Italian authorities have dismantled Roma camps. As an example, in Milan where local authorities have been evacuating Gypsies from a couple of years, because of upcoming elections, their focus has been now redirected towards the exclusion of Gypsies from their community, which represents a popular action through the community. (

In the case of UK, the government has also been criticised for expelling hundreds of gypsies ahead of the opening of the London 2012 Olympics. The National Gypsy Council says yet again they are discriminated, as they were in France under ex-president, Nicolas Sarkozy. The gypsies, mostly from Romania, used to live in East London, near the site of the Games. Right before the opening of London Games, local police invited Romanian police to deport them back to their home country. The main Gypsy population is formed of immigrants who come mostly from Eastern European countries like Romania, usually illegally. Most of the time they are seen begging on the streets of British cities, reason for which a number of British see them as thieves and beggars who represent a threat to social order. (

2.2. The reasons invoked by the parties for the expulsion of the Roma community

In this subchapter I will present the arguments invoked by the parties to the conflict about the expulsion of gypsies. Regarding the evacuation of gypsies the opinions are of course divided in two, one group that is pro this measure and considers it necessary, whilst there is the other group that considers that this measure is illegal. After presenting the opinions expressed by France, Italy and the United Kingdom I will also express my opinion on the topic.

For France this is not the first time something like this is happening because the first action of this kind started in the period while Nicolas Sarkozy was president, in 2010, when gypsies from 88 camps were expelled in a matter of weeks. At that time Sarkozy`s politics were highly criticised and seen as an effort on his behalf to bring in far-right voters in his bid for tough re-election campaign.

One of the most important figures responsible for this measure is Manuel Valls, France`s Interior Minister. He declared that these evacuations were necessary due to the possibility of health risks and not only that but also due to the fact that the neighbours of the camps were often complaining about noise, an antisocial behaviour and serious crimes that were coming out from the settlements. Manuel Valls also assured that everything would be done for vulnerable people, mostly for children and pregnant women in order for them to be re-housed as soon as possible underlining the fact that this is a “decent and humane” policy of removing people from deplorable conditions. (

The French government also declared that they only have to give residency permits if they want to settle long-term and work because of the transitory measures in the EU accession agreement, citizens from these countries are not actually allowed to work legally in France until December 31, 2013. “The repatriations do not take the form, in any way, of forced, collective expulsions,” said Interior Minister Valls. The government also added that according to EU law gypsies need to have the means to support themselves if they intend to stay for more than three months. The government said travelers camps were sources of „illegal trafficking” and „exploitation of children for begging, of prostitution and crime”.

France has insisted that the actions „ fully conform with European rules and do not in any way affect the freedom of movement for EU citizens, as defined by treaties”.

Foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told AFP that an EU directive „ expressly allows for restrictions on the right to move freely for reasons of public order, public security and public health”.

These have been the arguments brought by the people in charge of this measure. Now I will present some of the most important arguments brought against this action. The Romanian president declared about this action: „We understand the position of the French government. At the same time, we support unconditionally the right of every Romanian citizen to travel without restrictions within the EU”. (

The Roma groups accused Sarkozy of „ethnic cleaning”, underlining the fact that gypsies come either from Romania or Bulgaria, countries that are both in the EU since 2007, thus they were benefiting from the free movement principle.

The operation has also been condemned by human rights groups, who say it is deliberately stigmatising a generally law-abiding section of society to win support among right-wing voters.

When this action was taken by the police forces members of the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination criticised the tone of political discourse in France on race issues, saying racism and xenophobia were undergoing a „ significant resurgence” in this country. Mr Sarkozy’s political opponents have accused him of using the Roma issue to shift public attention away from the corruption in France to the Roma issue.

The row erupted after EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding branded the French policy a „disgrace” and called for legal action. She said she was „ appalled” by the expulsion of thousands of Roma, adding: ‘This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War”. ( Viviane Reding later said she regretted interpretations of her statement. Reding promised to haul France before the European Court and force it to change its policy. Still France has not only continued the deportation of the Roma, but also extended it. Admittedly its Interior Ministry has stopped circulating documents that mention the Roma by name, now he is using the phrase „ not exercising treaty rights” should be deported. The phrase “not exercising treaty rights” means “those who are not in work, or looking for work“.

After analysing this situation the European Union also took measures to remediate the problem. In a resolution that was passed by 337 votes to 245, the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) told Paris to „ immediately suspend all expulsions of Roma”, saying they „ amounted to discrimination”. Although their demands are not legally binding, the MEPs said that “mass expulsions are prohibited ” under E.U. law, „since they amount to discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity”. (

German MEP Martin Schulz, head of the Parliament’s powerful socialist group, lamented, ”The country that gave us liberté, égalité and fraternité has taken a different, regrettable path today” and President José Manuel Barroso’s described this measure as:”reawaken the ghosts of Europe’s past”. (

The Commission had questioned whether France was actually meeting the E.U.’s legal requirements with its deportations whether case-by-case assessments of the deportees were being made and decided that measures singling out a specific ethnic group are illegal.

There is a little that European institutions can do against such a determined government because the EU has no authority to actually interfere with the internal affairs of national governments, so far as they do not breach community rights. This is the reason for which EU actions are many times very soft. Because of the situation of the Roma community the measure that Europe took was to create an awareness campaign. This program that received millions of euros in order to help gypsies overcome the problems that they are confronted with, such as discrimination, poverty, bad housing and poor health.

But campaigns against the Roma have spread across Europe. The latest French offensive recalls Italy’s „security package” from 2008, which actually led to the dismantling of Roma camps and the deportation of migrants who could not prove that they actually had regular employment. In the past two years countries such as Italy and Great Britain, have also taken actions against the Roma or stated an intention to do that.

As previously mentioned Italy had the same politics as France concerning the Gypsies living in their country. Italy Roberto Malini, a representative from Everyone, an nongovernmental organization that defends minorities declares: “The strategy is clear and simple: Rather than forcing someone on the airplane, authorities keep demolishing gypsy camps so that eventually Roma people have no place to go and leave the country” ( Besides Milan, camps have also been evacuated in cities such as Rome, Naples, Venice. Maurizio Paganini, leader of the Opera Nomadi gypsy organization declared on this matter: “In a sense, Italy has anticipated the French trend in cracking down on Roma”.

Riccardo De Corato declared to Asca News Agency that: “We have kicked out 150 squatters in 24 hours and have evacuated 355 people since 2007”. The campaign under way here is a part of what observers are calling the most intense wave of anti-immigration sentiment to wash over Western Europe in years. (

The United Kingdom has taken the same measure as France and Italy, to expel gypsies from the country.

3. Is the expulsion of gypsies in breach of the EU legislation?

First of all, looking at the example of France in my opinion the action taken by France cannot be justified by public order and safety. The gypsies were indeed living in bad conditions, no hygiene, outrageous behaviour and having often a criminal behaviour. But in order to invoke the principle enriched in the Residence Directive, the principle of public order and safety some conditions have to be met, otherwise the principle is not applicable. If those conditions are met expulsion can only be made following the European legislation.

According to the Residence Directive “Member States may restrict the freedom of movement and residence of Union citizens and their family members, irrespective of nationality, on grounds of public policy, public security or public health. These grounds shall not be invoked to serve economic ends”. As a consequence, Member States can restrict the free movement of residence of Union citizens on the grounds above, if this does not follow an economic end. So far the measure taken by France is legal. (

A relevant phrase from the Residence Directive mentions also the following: “Measures taken on grounds of public policy or public security shall comply with the principle of proportionality and shall be based exclusively on the personal conduct of the individual concerned.  (

Previous criminal convictions shall not in themselves constitute grounds for taking such measures”. This article demonstrates the fact that France has committed an abuse. First of all if the measure is taken it must respect the proportionality principle. In my opinion the measure taken by the French Government did not respect the proportionality principle. Second of all, the Directive mentions in the article the fact that evacuation is possible in some conditions, only if it is based on “personal conduct”. In this case there is no personal conduct, but a general conduct, because the same measure of expulsion was taken for all the Gypsies living in those camps, so it was a general conduct. Not only this, but the measure is in breach of EU law, because the Residence Directive specifically forbids collective expulsions and this is exactly what happened in this case. So I consider that the action taken by the French government is in breach of EU law. There were without any doubt huge problems with the Roma community leaving there and the French position is understandable until a certain moment, but even so, the decision is still in contradiction with the EU legislation. The French Government should have proceeded in a different way in my opinion. If they wanted to protect the public order in the country, they should have investigated each and every person living in those camps.

The gypsies living there benefit from European protection, depending on their status. Some of them were living there for less than 3 months, which means that, as EU citizens they benefit from the free movement of people principle. Any EU citizen can travel around and stay in a country for 3 months without having to justify his stay. This is the first category of gypsies that were staying in those camps. The second category of gypsies was represented by workers. Among those people there were surely also gypsies that were workers in France. Those people are entitled to the protection offered by European Union to workers. The third category is probably represented by the jobseekers. If you qualify as a jobseeker, then you are entitled to the same rights as workers.

The last category was formed by gypsies, who were either beggars or thieves, this is the category which worried the French Government and the group that actually caused the French Government to expel them.

The measure to expel the gypsies from the country does not only represent a breach of EU legislation but also a breach of human rights, because the Government targeted from the first moment a specific group, which is anyway the most discriminated group in Europe. This action thus represents a racist action meant to get rid of the Roma community from the country.

In my opinion, this was a political action which does not resolve immigration problems. Proper knowledge of the existing problem is indeed needed before action is taken and impulsive action such the expulsion might be an easy way to get votes, but not to resolve problems in the long run.

Second of all, moving on to the Italian case, I consider the legal situation as being identical to the French one, the only difference between the two countries is the quantity of Roma that they expelled from their country. Because it was at a national level in France there were more gypsies evacuated than in Italy, but the action was the same, racist towards a specific group, measure than is not covered by the public order and public safety principle.

Third of all, analysing the situation in the United Kingdom, I consider the action taken by the UK to be in breach of EU law, because the free movement principle can be restricted only in specific cases, if the action is justified by public order, public safety and health. If none of these exemptions exist then the free movement of principle must be respected, because it represents one of the foundations of the European Union. The action taken against gypsies in UK was taken only to hide the real situation in front of all the personalities and tourists that were coming to London to see the Olympics. The English authorities did not want to paint a grim picture and show that there are also people that are in leaving in this way in those conditions in their country.

Concluding on this issue, I do consider that a state has the positive obligation to look after its citizens but also to try to integrate immigrants into its country. In a case like this, were they might represent a menace to public safety and public order the government`s action can be justified, if taken at the right time and if not targeting a specific ethnic group, but targeting dangerous people, that represent a menace to their society.

After presenting the politics of these countries towards gypsies in the following part of the paper I will briefly also present my conclusions and the migration problem for Romanians.

4. Conclusion

Regarding the expulsion of gypsies from France, Italy, UK, I argued that this did not only breached EU law but also Human Rights. Expulsion can be accepted under the Residence Directive, if protecting public order but that was not demonstrated by the governments of any of these countries. In addition, mass expulsions are specifically prohibited and this is exactly what happened to the Romanian gypsies living in the countries mentioned above. But a big problem still remains: gypsies, still represent the most discriminated group of Europe. How can this problem be solved?

The issue of gypsies might explain why Romania was refused accession the Schengen space and the restrictions on the free movement of Romanian workers. These people are normally identified according to the way they are dressed, they are mostly seen by other Europeans as beggars, thieves, etc. These are the reasons for which they were expelled from the countries mentioned above. In my opinion this behaviour should change. The mentality could change through further discussion between the countries hosting large minorities of Roma people; need for research; more discussion among Romani leaders about the way in which they could interfere integrate/protect Roma people rights ; more objective media coverage because they are often depicted badly in the media, which is not revealing all the time both sides of the story and last but not least, some sort of police training and partnership with the Roma.

It is essential to gather more information about the patterns of migration of Romanians and gypsies because this it is one of the reasons why Romania was denied the access to the Schengen space and why some countries imposed severe restrictions in their countries concerning their job market.

Today the European Commission, E.U. member countries and the Roma themselves all agree that Spain has become the model for integrating Gypsies. Now the governments of Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and even Romania where many Roma come from are looking to Spain for ideas to apply themselves.

Of the 10-12 million Roma living in Europe, Spain has the second biggest community, estimated at 970,000, or about 2% of the total population. And the country spends almost €36 million annually bringing them into the fold. In Spain, only 5% of gypsies live in makeshift camps and about half of Roma have their own houses. Just about all Gypsies in Spain have access to health care and while no recent figures exist, at least 75% are believed to have some sort of steady income. (

The spokesperson of the Amnesty International in Denmark, Ole Hoff-Lund, said in the newspaper Yesterday’s Information that: “Roma have no peace anywhere in Europe. They are in the most vulnerable population group, which is persecuted and discriminated against in the EU. They have no access to jobs, housing, education or health. This type of discrimination, Roma now encounter also encounter in Denmark and even from the highest place. Even Minister of Justice has pitched in”. (,8599,2019316,00.html)

Another debate that occurred was related to the costs of this migration waves. Still the Romanians and Bulgarians that wanted to leave the country and work somewhere else did that already. More than 1 million Romanians currently work in Italy, whereas in Spain there are 900 000. These countries have been chosen by Romanians because of the linguistic similarities. (

The free movement of labour is a fundamental right which is enjoyed by all EU citizens. It represents a core principle that is the cornerstone of a prosperous, peaceful and integrated Europe. As a consequence developing a nationalistic attitude towards the labour market across the continent is a dangerous attitude. Eroding the foundation for the concept of labour mobility within Europe would set the EU further back in actually meeting the need to grow and ensure the economy on the long run and also it`s prosperity.

Besides the substantial economic benefit, free movement also paves the road towards a common European identity. Ultimately, just trading goods across borders and integrating any fiscal policies will not be able to complete the required foundation for closer political union.

European citizenship can be understood as a fundamental right given to European citizens to move, work and build their lives in other Member States which also includes establishing families and nurturing friendships, which fosters a true sense of common European citizenship. In the situation where Europeans start closing down their borders to their fellow Europeans today there will remain not that much of “European” to defend.

Even with the current situation Europeans have historically exercised their right to move and reside freely across the EU less than predicted because of all the linguistic and cultural barriers that kept many Europeans tied to their own markets. As a consequence, many governments are fighting with high rates of unemployment and angry electorates, which are scared about migration on their country. This reaction of people is not actually supported by facts because empirical evidence shows that this fear, of foreign workers might crowd out the domestic ones is incorrect. It rarely happens that migrant workers displace the domestic labour force. Instead they do contribute substantially to national economies, through the labour they supply, through the taxes that they pay and also through the services that they consume.



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