French police have dismantled the biggest Roma encampment in the Lyon area. Such crackdowns with no provisions to house residents run contrary to promises President Francois Hollande made in his election campaign.
On the basis of a court order that they vacate the land, which belongs to a property developer, authorities said 121 Roma, 47 of whom are children, had been moved out of the camp in Saint-Priest, Rhone.
The encampment was home, until this weekend, to about 180 people, including several newborns.
Saint-Priest Mayor Martine David acknowledged the fact that the expelled Roma are likely to set up a new camp in the area. "We are going round in circles," she said. "We can't offer them a permanent housing solution, and I know there's a risk they will just set up another camp. On a human level, it is completely catastrophic but we just don't have the means to deal with this kind of situation."
About 15,000 Roma live in illegal camps across France. New Interior Minister Manuel Valls has continued the previous administration's approach of periodically dismantling camps and offering free flights and financial incentives for Roma to return to their countries of origin.
The policy, deeply criticized when it was introduced by Nicolas Sarkozy's administration, has had little impact other than to bring Valls unfavorable attention from other government officials, the European Commission and human rights groups.
The eviction followed Monday's expulsion of 70 people, including 19 children, from a Roma camp in a suburb of Paris.
mkg / rc (AFP, dpa)