France begins Roma deportations: ‘They are trying to get rid of us all’

French police evacuate a Roma camp near Grenoble. Photograph: Marc GREINER/PHOTOPQR/LE DAUPHINE

Nicolas Sarkozy’s programme of expulsion gathers pace as fear and resignation spreads among Marseille’s immigrants

Outside No 431, rue de Lyon, the Mediterranean sun beat down on the pavement and an old man lay in wait for the police. Inside, behind the long grass and a dilapidated green gate, the women were preparing themselves for the worst. “We are getting things ready,” one explained, pointing at a half-packed suitcase. In among the ramshackle sheds and squealing toddlers, they took turns at holding a six-week-old baby in their arms.

Today, as the French government pushed forward with its mission to rid the country of foreign Roma it deems to be living there illegally, Marseille’s most marginalised community was in the grip of both fear and resignation: fear because the authorities have in recent weeks ratcheted up the pressure, and resignation because, after years of repeated expulsions and unrelenting social isolation, many of them have seen it all before. Continue reading