NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
FRANCE: LEAGUE PROTEST OVER TREATMENT OF ROMA
The Celtic League has protested to the French embassies in London and Dublin about the treatment of Roma people in France who are currently being forcibly expelled from the State.
The League have pointed out that the French stance on the issue is hypocritical given than only twelve months ago assurances were given to the United Nations that Roma/Travellers would be treated equitably (see below):
Embassy of France
London SW1X 7JT
I draw your attention to the statement set out below which is an extract from the submission by the Government of France to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on the 11th March 2009.
How can your government square the intent of the statement to the current outrageous treatment being meted out to Roma people by way of forced expulsions from the State?
Would you agree that it is hypocritical of your government to provide an assurance to the United Nations which within twelve months is abrogated?
“5. Measures to help travellers
Response to the recommendation in paragraph 16 of the Committee’s observations:
33. According to information provided by groups and associations, the Roma population in France numbers about 300,000. They are usually described as “travellers”, even though only about a third of them move around the national territory. Another third is regarded as semi-sedentary. The final third has
taken up settled residence.
34. This population group encounters major economic and social problems. As well as the continuing obstacles they have to contend with in relation to housing and parking their vehicles, travellers often have poor levels of qualification, making it difficult for them to enter the labour market. They also suffer from discrimination in relation to employment, housing, education,
health and citizenship.
35. In accordance with the Republican model, the measures taken by the State are designed to encourage the integration of travellers into the national community, by giving them access to the fundamental rights of all citizens. These measures form part of ordinary-law policies but, are supplemented, where necessary, by specific measures.
(a) Measures to guarantee travellers the exercise of full citizenship
36. At the initiative of the Minister of Housing and Town Planning, an interministerial study was commissioned to reform the legislation on travel
permits, introduced by an Act of 1969. Itinerant traders and persons moving around France for more than six months a year with no fixed abode or residence are required to hold such permits. The legislation also lays down conditions derogating from the ordinary law relating to registration on electoral rolls. Nowadays, these legal provisions affect practically only travellers, even though it is increasingly rare for the condition concerning the period spent travelling around to be fulfilled.
37. Linked to the question of travel permits, the issue of domicilation has also been considered by the Minister for Housing and Town Planning. For example, article 51 of the Act of 5 March 2007 on the enforceable right to housing, organizing the reform of domiciliation, provides travellers with better guarantees of access to social benefits by giving them the opportunity of acquiring domicile with an approved body (or local social welfare centre [Centre communal d’action sociale, CCAS]), like any person of no fixed abode. The reform must also make it possible, in particular, to remove the difficulties encountered in obtaining access to bank lending and insurance (cars, caravans,
(c) Application of the Besson Act of 5 July 2000 and providing housing for travellers
38. To meet the problems of an itinerant lifestyle, France adopted, on 5 July 2000, a law requiring communes with more than 5,000 inhabitants to provide sites or transit sites under departmental plans, but there are problems in applying this legislation. To improve matters, State funding arrangements have been carried forward for a year, to 31 December 2008.
39. Creating sites for travellers is not the only answer. There have been significant changes in travellers’ living conditions, with the result that their needs have changed. An assessment of the arrangements for receiving travellers under the law of 5 July 2000 actually confirms a trend towards demand for “anchorage” on what are described as “family sites”. This form of housing combines both mobile home and permanent dwelling on private land. A study is currently under way to establish how best to respond to these new expectations, and to do so in conditions of dignity that respect the rights of those concerned. Encouraging family sites is certainly a way of facilitating better integration into the host municipalities and securing better schooling for children.
40. Moreover, like all citizens, travellers are entitled to basic housing and are able to benefit from the new laws and regulations establishing an enforceable right to housing. From 2012, this new entitlement will enable any applicant for housing to appeal to the courts, if his/her application has not met with a response that properly reflects his needs and abilities. For individuals with major housing problems, this right has existed since 1 January 2008, subject to certain conditions.
(d) Measures to promote access to employment
41. There is no guarantee for the future of travellers’ traditional economic activities, and, consequently, many families are living on the minimum income because they are unable to engage in their traditional activities and cannot get jobs, as they lack the necessary qualifications and lead itinerant lives.
42. In the context of the Government’s reforms to encourage recipients of the minimum income to return to work (the “back-to-work” law, trialling the earned income supplement, RSA), methods of access to employment or return to work that are compatible with travellers’ life-styles, need to be encouraged as far as possible, taking into account their skills and expectations, particularly when
setting up micro-businesses and getting access to personal credit.
(e) Support for socio-educational measures to help travellers
43. Every year, the Ministry of Social Affairs provide financial support for local association initiatives to promote, among other things, pre-schooling and schooling for children, access to social welfare, teacher training, mediation activities and integration into working life. In 2007, it also supported the initiative of a national association representing travellers to produce a practical guide that is eagerly anticipated by travellers themselves.
(f) Bodies working with travellers at national and international level
44. At national level, a national commission called the “National Consultative Commission for Travellers” was set up in 2003. It includes government representatives, elected representatives, travellers’ representatives and associations acting on their behalf, and suitably qualified individuals. Its role is to look into the specific problems of the Roma and to make proposals to the Government on how they can be better integrated into the national community. It is consulted on draft legislation and regulations and on action programmes
45. At local level, in every département, a consultative commission, including representatives of the municipalities concerned, travellers’ representatives and associations acting on their behalf are involved in devising and implementing the departmental plan for travellers’ sites. The commission is jointly chaired by the State’s representatives in the département and by the president of the
departmental council, or their representatives.
46. Every year, the departmental consultative commission draws up an assessment of the plan’s implementation. It may appoint a mediator to review the difficulties encountered in implementing the plan and propose how they may be resolved. The mediator provides the commission with an activity report.
(g) Educating travellers’ children
47. Circular No. 2002-101 of 25 April 2002 on “Educating the children of travellers and itinerant families”, provides that the ordinary law is, in all respects, applicable to the children of itinerant families. Pursuant to article L.111 of the Education Code, everyone is guaranteed access to education, and the Ministry of Education is working to provide travellers’ children with an
education in accordance with this law.
48. As a matter of principle, these children are to be integrated into normal classes. However, in order “to guarantee equality of opportunity, appropriate provisions shall make it possible for each individual to have access to the different types or levels of education, in accordance with his or her abilities and specific needs”, as stated in article L.111-2 of the Education Code, amended in 2005 by the Act on the Orientation and Programming of the Future of Schools.
49. Measures to support the education of travellers’ children are based on mobilizing local players in conjunction with the departmental plan for the reception of travellers. Under the supervision of the chief education officer (director of the Ministry of Education’s departmental services) a coordinator liaises between the public services, the associations and the centres for the education of new arrivals in the education authority’s catchment area and traveller’s children (CASNAV). The centres provide teaching, counselling and training. They provide the reception and assessment point for newly arrived travellers’ children, enabling them to be channelled to the class best suited to them in terms of their knowledge of French and standard of education.
50. Enrolled in classes with the normal curriculum for their age and academic level, travellers’ children who do not have French as their mother tongue are also taught by teachers trained in teaching French as a second language, following the procedure specific to each level of education.
51. Two methods are used in schools:
– Introductory classes (CLIN) in which a maximum of 15 pupils come together for several hours a day and are given intensive courses in French tailored to their needs;
– Intensive courses in French (integrated remedial course, CRI) provided by a peripatetic teacher who works at the school with small groups of pupils, as needed.
52. In middle schools, lycées and vocational lycées:
– Introductory classes (CLA) are provided in some middle schools that have opted for this, in accordance with an education authority regulation that makes it possible to respond to needs; in these classes, pupils are given special teaching in French as a second language. Since 2005, the Ministry of Education has been offering, in schools, an official diploma in French as a foreign language (DELF), an adapted version of the DELF for adults;
– Some classes include children who have not previously attended school and therefore need to be taught basic reading skills and mathematics.
53. In many education authorities, initiatives have been taken to improve the reception and education of travellers’ children: the question of adapting methods to meet the various specific needs of children who have both major problems with schooling and live in poverty has, for example, been integrated into the Montpellier education authority’s education action programmes.
54. Alongside the development of these specific instruments by the education authorities and CASNAVs, travellers’ children continue to benefit, like other pupils, from measures under the equal opportunities policy, such as educational support and the personalized programmes for academic achievement (PPRE). ”
The full text of the report by France to UN/CERD can be found at:
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information’
Prophetically it is only months since the Celtic League expressed concern about the treatment of Roma/Travellers to the European Commission – see related links below:
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on
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