Round-up of Roma people puts Sarkozy in the dock
Member of President’s own party attacks ‘disgraceful’ expulsions reminiscent of life under the Nazis
French president Nicolas Sarkozy is taking fire from his political supporters following his decision to crack down on illegal Roma camps in France. On Monday one member of the ruling UMP Government, Jean-Pierre Grand, labelled Sarkozy's policy as "disgraceful" and described it as reminiscent of the round up of Jews by French police in World War Two.
Another political ally of the President, Christine Boutin, leader of the Christian Democratic Party, accused Sarkozy of creating a climate of fear by "turning people up against one another [as] stigmatisation of one or another community exacerbates violence".
Not that the protests look likely to dissuade Sarkozy from continuing with his pledge to break up 300 illegal Roma camps and send those inhabitants found to be in France illegally back to their country of origin.
In the latest incident at the weekend, police descended on a gypsy commune in Montreuil (above), a suburb in the east of Paris, and removed 70 Roma people (including 20 children) from a building they were illegally occupying.
"They separated us, put the men to one side and the women and children to another, and then threatened to take away our children if we attempted to protest," one of the Roma women told Liberation, adding that her children went to the local school and considered themselves French.
Jean-Pierre Grand led the chorus of complaints at the perceived heavy-handedness of the police, condemning "these methods which resemble wartime roundups". His words were echoed by the Green Party mayor of Montreuil, Dominique Voynet, who accused Sarkozy of pandering to the country's Right.
Meanwhile the United Nations has also expressed its concern at the President's draconian stance, warning that France is undergoing "a significant resurgence of racism", an attitude encouraged by intemperate language from the country's politicians.
Last month the Lower House in the French Assembly voted by 335 to 1 to ban the wearing of the full veil in public, a vote that will almost certainly be ratified by the Upper House in September.
In recent weeks France has been plagued by ugly scenes of violence, including several days of rioting by youths in Grenoble, and an attack on a rural police station by Romas after one of their number was shot dead by police following an alleged robbery on a supermarket.
But Sarkozy is determined to pursue his hardline policy - what he calls his "war on crime" - after opinion polls showed the majority of the French public supported him.
A poll in last week's Figaro found that 79 per cent of people surveyed supported the closure of the Roma camps, while the messageboard on France's most popular tabloid, Le Parisien, left no doubt as to the feelings of readers. "France isn't a dumping ground and cannot welcome all the poverty of the world," wrote one - sentiments that will strike a chord with Sarkozy. ·
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