The Plight of the Roma

NEW YORK – The Roma have been persecuted across Europe for centuries. Now they face a form of discrimination unseen in Europe since World War II: group evictions and expulsions from several European democracies of men, women, and children on the grounds that they pose a threat to public order.

Last week, France began to carry out plans to expel all non-French Roma, implicating them as a group in criminal activity, without any legal process to determine whether individuals have committed any crime or pose a threat to public order. These French actions follow Italy’s “security package” of 2008, which described so-called “nomads” as a threat to national security and imposed emergency legislation leading to expulsions of non-Italian Roma.

Stopping criminal activity is a legitimate government concern. But the expulsion of EU citizens on the basis of ethnicity as a proxy for criminal activity is a violation of EU directives on racial discrimination and the right to move freely from one EU member-state to another.

Indeed, it is a firmly established legal principle that crime should be addressed by a determination of individual guilt before a court of law. Moreover, convicted criminals are not routinely deported if they are citizens of another EU member state. Instead, European law requires an individual determination that deportation is necessary and proportionate to the crime committed, as well as consideration of other circumstances (such as the strength of the individual’s ties to the community).