Brutal Attack Highlights History of Discrimination of Roma in France

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Managing Editor

Paris, France – A sixteen-year-old Roma boy known as Darius was found bloodied in a shopping cart in a suburb north of Paris last week after he was Kidnapped and beaten by about a dozen youths who accused him of stealing. French President Francois Hollande condemned the attack, calling it an unspeakable and unjustifiable act and saying that all efforts would be taken to find those responsible. Hollande added that the attack was “against all the principles on which our republic is founded.”


Dancers from Europe’s largest ethnic minority perform at a pride event in Paris last year celebrating Roma culture and heritage. Despite their numbers, an estimated 12 million across Europe, the Roma have historically been marginalized where ever they settle across the continent. (Photo Courtesy of the Guardian)

Police say the young boy was dragged out of his home at an unofficial camp and into a cellar by a dozen locals, who accused him of breaking into a nearby flat the previous Friday. A police officer said “A group of several people went to find him in the camp and took him by force.” The boy’s mother contacted police when he was taken, the police found him unconscious later that night. The victim was taken to a local hospital where he remains in critical condition.

The boy had been known to police who had linked him to a number of thefts and break-ins but he had never been convicted of a crime. “The motive of this lynching, it was vengeance,” prosecutor Sylvie Moisson told the press, saying the boy’s condition remained life-threatening. “To practically condemn him to death is barbaric,” he said.

Anti-racism organizations say there has been a disturbing increase in violence against the Roma population. According to the human rights organization SOS Racism the attack was the result of an alarming change in attitudes towards Roma in France, which it said was “the clear result of the disgusting tensions into which our citizens have been plunged.”

Aline Le Bail-Kremer, a spokesperson for SOS Racism, says the incident is not surprising considering the current atmosphere in France. The incident reflects the growing atmosphere of ethnic tensions and discrimination of Roma which has persisted in French culture. Bail-Kremer believes the anti-Roma sentiment in France is reflected in the recent success of far-right political parties in the European Parliamentary election; she said “the fact is the National Front, which is a xenophobic party, won an election in this country and won a lot of gains all over Europe.”

Cases of hate crimes against the Roma population are not uncommon in France and even elsewhere in Europe. In February of this year a case against a 40-year-old man who was accused of throwing a mixture of bleach and cleaning fluids at a group Roma living near the Place de la République in central Paris was dismissed by a judge because the case reportedly lacked evidence. In May 2013 several Roma families were attacked at a campsite in northern France, and in October 2012 locals drove a group of Roma out of an encampment and burned everything at their campsites.

The influx of violence against Roma in France reflects a culture of discrimination that exists in the country. The Roma are the largest ethnic minority in Europe with a population of about 12 million across the continent. The Roma population in France face the reality of institutionalized racism from a young age, not only do their parents face difficulty finding work but Public Schools often refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Roma encampments, cutting children like Darius off from the level of access to education that is given to others living in France.

For more information please see:

The New York Times – Beating of Roma Boy Exposes Tensions in France’s Underclass – 25 June 2014

The Guardian – Broken Camp, Broken Lives, As Vigilante Attack Makes Itself Felt On Roma – 21 June 2014

National Public Radio – Brutal Vigilante Attack on Roma Teen Shocks France – 19 June 2014

Al Jazeera America – Savage Beating Of Roma Teen in Paris Prompts Outrage – 17 June 2014

The Guardian – Roma Teenager in Coma after Being Attacked By Residents of French Estate – 17 June 2014

About the Author

Kathryn Maureen Ryan

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