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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: À Gardanne, on n’expulse pas les Roms

In Gardanne, they don’t evict the Roma

Translated Monday 15 October 2012, by Kristina Wischenkamper and reviewed by Bill Scoble

The Communist municipality of Gardanne (Bouches-du-Rhône) has decided to help eleven Roma families camped on a brownfield site in the town, rather than to evict them, said the mayor, Roger Mei.

"Our aim is to show that we can accommodate the Roma humanely, as full citizens," said Roger Mei, Communist mayor of Gardanne since 1977, continuing that he is worried about the "rise of hate and misunderstanding" aimed at the Roma.
The eleven families composed of 62 people—including twenty children of school age—arrived about a month ago. The mayor has installed toilets and rubbish bins on the camp and has secured the entrance with a chain and a padlock to prevent unauthorized persons entering to intimidate the Roma, as has happened recently elsewhere.

On Monday, the mayor met with local associations to coordinate aid for the families, including the collection of clothing. "We plan to install mobile homes or put up army tents for over the winter," said Roger Mei, who has managed to raise about 30,000 euros to finance the operation. In return for this aid and the absence of an expulsion order, the mayor has asked families to send their children to school. "We will be able to integrate this population once we have managed to stabilize it, allowing for children’s schooling and healthcare," said Cendrine Labaume, general coordinator of Médecins du Monde in Marseille, who welcomes the attitude of the Gardanne municipality.

The mayor said that this was, however, only a "temporary solution" and that it was up to the state and the European Union to clarify the modalities of the reception of Roma communities in the longer term. According to estimates made by the associations, in the Bouches-du-Rhône area alone, hundreds of Roma have been subject to expulsion orders, that have been executed or are still pending; moreover it is difficult to give precise figures, as the same families may be evicted several times.

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