France evicted record 19,000 Roma migrants in 2013

Roma children Andrea-Maria (L) and Valeria sit next to the only street that goes by the abjectly poor Roma settlement of Ponorata on September 10, 2013 in Ponorata, Romania.

France forcibly evicted a record 19,380 Roma migrants in 2013, more than double the figure the previous year, two rights groups said in a joint report on Tuesday.

"In comparison 9,404 Roma were forcibly evicted by authorities in 2012 and 8,455 in 2011," the Human Rights League (LDH) and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) said.

"Forced evictions continued almost everywhere without credible alternative housing solutions or social support," they said.

The report said that government policy requiring social assessments before evictions "is rarely implemented."

France has come under attack from rights groups over the current climate of hostility towards the ethnic group, highlighted when Interior Minister Manuel Valls said few of the Roma had any interest in settling in France and should return to their countries of origin.

There are an estimated 20,000 Roma – mostly migrants from Bulgaria or Romania -- living in temporary, often illegal, camps on the edges of French towns.

"This policy of rejection is ineffective, costly and unnecessary since nothing has changed after these evictions," said Pierre Tartakowsky, the president of LDH.

"Roma still live in France, in settlements they have rebuilt a little further away, but their situation is increasingly insecure. The ongoing, increased evictions pave the way for the expression of extremism and anti-Roma racism."

ERRC chief Dezideriu Gergely called for an immediate end to forced evictions and for a "real integration policy for those people at risk of poverty or social exclusion."

The data showed that evictions peaked in summer, but continued at a high rate in the last three months of the year despite cold weather.

The report said 56 percent of the evictions took place in the Paris region.