Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The issue of the French deportation of a Roma student.

For the past two weeks there is a very divisive topic being discussed in France. On October the 9th, a Roma girl from Kosovo has been deported from the country together with her family. 

The school girl aged 15 years old, spent most of her life in France and was a French speaker. 

The decision to deport Leonarda Dibrani and her family was taken by the French interior ministry, in an effort to return all undocumented immigrants to the country of their origin. 

This action caused a heated debate once more in France on immigration, integration and the safeguarding of French national values. Protests in support of the girl and her family took place in France, for two consecutive days.

It is not the first time that the Roma community is finding itself at the epicenter of an immigration row in France. Just a few years ago Roma people this time from Romania and Bulgaria were also deported, even though they were EU citizens. 

The problem is why it is only the Roma community who is being stigmatized by the French media or authorities? They are not the only group of undocumented immigrants in the country and certainly not the only one who fails to "integrate itself into French society and accept its values," as many who support the deportation claim. 

Will the French authorities deport many people from their former colonies that haven't integrated well into French society? Perhaps they won't because they are former colonial subjects and France still wants to have a meddling influence in their country. Or perhaps they will equally deport all illegal immigrants.

Then why we never read any reports about protests of deportations of people of other ethnic origin in France? The Roma people are being stigmatized and brought to the forefront of an issue that all countries have, yet as it is a sensitive issue when other ethnic groups are concerned, nobody really bothers about the Roma. 

If we think about it, there are many vocal groups or lobbies that protest to safeguard the rights of people of black African or Jewish  decent, gay people, women or the rights of the Muslim community. But very few to do so for the Roma.

And that is because in every country they have settled, they have been discriminated against for centuries. No government of a country with a substantial Roma community has managed to successfully create policies, that would encourage the full integration of the Roma into their communities. 

And while it is true that in many cases it is the Roma people who do not want to change their way of life and integrate themselves in the country they are living, we have to examine if the approach of the governments was always understandable and fair to them. 

The Roma are Europeans and in most cases they are also EU citizens. They have been living among us for centuries. People forget their influence and contribution in European culture and heritage, like our music for example. In Spain, Greece, Hungary and Romania their music has been adding to these countries' heritage for centuries now. What would Spain be without a flamenco, a music that the gypsies gave their soul into? 

I do not object to the right of the French authorities to keep up with their work of enforcing the law. Nor do I object to the deportations of illegal immigrants, if those are justified and these people do not have the right to be in a country, or fail to abide by its laws.

What I object to is that the Roma people are being victimized and stigmatized. They are always the ones who are used as scape goats in the French struggle to deal with their immigration problem. Because it is too sensitive to put any other ethnic group on the spot, the Roma have become the face of this political and social issue.

And the worse thing is that the whole issue with the Roma, has been used to keep Romania and Bulgaria out of the Schengen Agreement and place restrictions on the free movement of people from these countries to certain EU countries. These two nations are also stigmatized as result, by having different rules apply for their citizens even though the real problem is about Roma immigration.

If certain countries have immigration problem, no ethnic group should become the focus of the media attention. The issue should be dealt by treating all immigrant groups with the same respect, keeping their dignity while proceed with the enforcement of the law.

The EU Commission has already many times warned France over its stance on Roma people, but still the country failed to comply. How do they expect to create an equal European community if they fail to protect all ethnic groups that live in it, even the indigenous ones?

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