Do you happen to know what the relocation criteria were, that the authorities had established for the evicted people?
Violene: I didn t understand much about the criteria. Yet I know that families with small children and those who worked legally were relocated. On the other hand, I know families with small children that didn t receive another place to stay. The duration of their stay in the camp was important – the ones that had gotten here more recently weren t relocated.
Had the people in the camp been monitored by the City Hall, did every one of them have a social diagnosis file or something similar? How did they sort them?
Violene: They did what we call ”clean evictions”. That is, the transported the people with minibuses to a school where everything was prepared: there was a playground for the children, and social offices where they got guidance, and a regional office that handed out decisions of leaving the country for those who had not been legally registered. The ones that were confirmed for relocation were put in another bus and taken to their new home.
Violene: Not necessarily. The majority of them were taken to another area, rented by the municipality, were they had set up a legal tent camp, with slightly better living conditions. But to resume, three of the 400 evicted people (whose papers had been checked by the authorities before the eviction) – three single Macedonian men were moved to a detention centre to be removed from the group, and several Romanians received the order to leave the country.
But all European citizens have the right to reside in France, don t they?
Violene: They have, as long as two months after entering the country they can prove that they are not a social burden to the French state, otherwise the authorities automatically issue the order to leave the country – they do that every time there is an eviction.
So after the eviction, the people were taken here and there. I have watched closely the trajectory of a Romanian family, that had left one day before the eviction and resettled in another area in the metropolis. They were evicted from there, too, by the police, the same evening. I met them in the street, it happened that it was a family I had known for a long time. The next weekend we decided to go back together to this second area from where they had been evicted, because the police hadn t given them any legal notice. Shortly after we got there, the neighbors came to tell us that they won t accept Roma people there etc. and then came the police and the threw us out once more after two hours. From there we went to an ex-squat where some comrades of mine used to live, which was abandoned at that moment, yet still habitable, at least for a short while. The family settled in until we would be able to find something else. One week later, they called me and told me they were getting evicted from there, too. I immediately went there and I was surprised to see that the district City Hall representatives (La Fontaine district) were actually evicting people from a private home without the owner having asked them to do so. It was simply about preventing Roma people from settling into the neighborhood, and it was an initiative of the City Hall.
If I am not mistaken, in La Fontaine the elections had been won by a left-wing party.
Violene: Yes, the Communist Party… The French Communist Party.
What is the situation of the rest of the people that remained in the Grenoble area after the great eviction – that is the ones that haven t been relocated?
Violene: A great many of them remained in the metropolitan area, many of them tried to settle in abandoned houses. But the problem is there are instances when the neighbors organize in some sort of vigilantes squads to evacuate the squatters. For instance, two weeks ago, in Saint Martin D’Heres, a house was occupied and immediately after the neighbors threatened they would organize a protest in favour of the eviction, which they did, under the indifferent gaze of the authorities. There were racist insults, and even nazi salutes addressed to the Roma family that had occupied that house. Following the pressure, the family had to leave. (…) We are not quite sure yet about what it is to be done, because racism increases and we have no power over this, and the authorities do nothing. Most of the time they wash their hands of it, saying it is not the problem of our country, but a European problem.
About how many Roma migrant homeless people are there in Grenoble, from what you know?
Violene: Around 1000. And we are talking about more or less the same people, that came here a few years ago. There are many families we meet over and over again, that have the same problems.
Has there been any initiative of social policy in the past few years regarding the situation of these people?
Violene: Not really. For the Roma in Romania and Hungary there has been a sort of pilot program, financed by the European Union and the French state, where every village in Grenoble gave an apartment to an association specialized in the social insertion of Roma people. Within the program, they would get help with the papers for social assistance, in finding work (some of them manage to find work in two or three years time), with the children etc. But the program only covers the needs of about 160 people, which is a really small number and the problem at the larger scale remains. In general, there are really few groups or organizations ready to appeal to the state representative here, and tell them they have the obligation to provide housing for every person in this city. Yet some organizations with a social assistance and charity profile are beginning, little by little, to tackle this issue from a political perspective. At some point several militant groups, ours included, have published an open letter in which we were reminding everyone that having a roof over one s head is a right – following the precept that there should be no person without a home, and no empty house in the world – and we were supporting the people that were finding their own housing solutions (empty houses, trains etc.), as long as the authorities had nothing for them. (…)
Grenoble, 22nd of September, 2015
Interview by Victor Vozian
(Please find part one and two of this text here: http://artapolitica.ro/en/2016/09/25/racism-evictions-and-organizing-for-the-housing-rights-of-roma-migrants-in-france-part-i/
and here: http://artapolitica.ro/en/2016/09/26/racism-evictions-and-organizing-for-the-housing-rights-of-roma-migrants-in-france-part-ii/
and the Romanian version here: http://artapolitica.ro/2016/04/25/rasism-evacuari-si-organizare-pentru-drepturile-locative-ale-migrantilor-romi-in-franta/)