Vigilantes burn Roma camp in Marseille, France
28 September 2012
From the section Europe
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Image caption Charred remains of belongings could be seen at the site on Friday
A group of vigilantes have evicted a group of Roma (Gypsies) from a Marseille housing estate and burnt down their camp, French media report.
There were no reports of violence when the 35 Roma people were forced out of the city’s Creneaux estate.
Furniture and other items were set on fire at the camp, which was erected on wasteland at the beginning of the week.
Residents had reportedly complained to their mayor, blaming the Roma for burglaries in the area.
Caroline Godard, a member of a Roma rights group called Rencontres Tsiganes, said she was “horrified” by news of the expulsion, Le Monde newspaper reports.
It appears that residents went to the authorities on Thursday morning, before the vigilantes took the law into their own hands.
Marseille has a recent history of tension between residents and Roma who have set up camps there, often just tents erected on patches of bare ground.
The 15th arrondissement of the southern port city, where the Creneaux estate is located, is one of its poorest districts, with a large immigrant population.
At 19:30 (17:30 GMT) on Thursday, a group of about 30 vigilantes ordered the Roma to leave.
By the time police arrived in Creneaux, they found the Roma leaving and no evidence of any violence, a source close to the inquiry told Le Monde.
Image caption Roma camps have seen around Marseille
Officers were only able to record the incident without reporting any crime, according to La Provence newspaper. However, images from the scene clearly show property being burnt.
Mayor Samia Ghali told AFP news agency that angry residents of Marseille’s 15th and 16th arrondissements had come to see her on Thursday morning, accusing the Roma of carrying out burglaries.
Some of the residents accused the Roma of “fouling everything and entering buildings”, she said.
One resident, whose name was given only as Sabrina, told La Provence that people had appealed to the authorities only to be told they had to wait several months before they would step in.
“We were given to understand that we had to sort out the matter ourselves,” she said.
“So fine, that’s what we did. In the afternoon we phoned each other and turned up at the camp. We all know each other here. It happened very fast.”
The new Socialist government has been breaking up illegal Roma camps and deporting their inhabitants back to Eastern Europe, resuming a controversial policy followed by the previous conservative government.
An estimated 15,000 foreign Roma were living in illegal camps across France this summer.
Coming mainly from Bulgaria and Romania, they 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.
From January 2014, or seven years after the two countries’ accession to the EU, Romanians and Bulgarians will enjoy full freedom of movement anywhere in the EU.