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Rights officials say France's Roma evictions defy law

UN human rights officials have criticized France for expelling Roma, saying the government's actions amount to violation of international law. In August, French police have dismantled Roma camps in Lille, Lyon and Paris.

Reports of the evictions were described as disturbing in light of France already being criticized in 2010 for similar measures against Roma, a panel of four experts said in a statement issued at the United Nations in Geneva.

"The Roma are European Union citizens and Europe's most marginalized minority," said Rita Izsak, the UN expert on minorities. "Regrettably, these acts demonstrate that they do not always enjoy the same right of free movement and settlement, and continue to experience discriminatory treatment."

The UN experts said that better housing conditions are needed for Roma and noted that collective expulsion is banned under international law. The independent experts report to the UN Human Rights Council, a 47-member Geneva forum that includes France.

'Not an appropriate response'

"The ultimate objective seems to be the expulsion of migrant Roma communities from France," said Francois Crepeau, UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

French police clear a camp outside Lyon on August 28

Women and children are marched out of the camps and often have nowhere to go

The experts advocated legal safeguards, including adequate housing alternatives to ensure that people - particularly children, women and those with illnesses or disabilities - are not left homeless.

"Forced eviction is not an appropriate response, and alternative solutions should be sought that conform with human rights standards," said Raquel Rolnik, UN special rapporteur on adequate housing.

Those being evicted come mostly from Romania and Bulgaria - EU members that human rights groups say discriminate against Roma. An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Roma immigrants in France live mainly in squalid camps on the outskirts of cities. French Interior Minister Manual Valls said on Monday that he would ask Romania and Bulgaria to do more to integrate the minority at home.

While France continues to defend its dismantling of the camps, it has also announced a partial lifting of work restrictions on citizens of the newest member states as a measure to better integrate Roma.

mkg / rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)