I was standing outside the metro station when I heard a loud bang and a scraping roar. Another bang and the medium sized black-lacquered guitar came scraping out onto the sidewalk and banged into the foot of a Bangali-looking man waiting there.
Without any apology, without even looking at the man, the nine-year-old Gypsy kid runs up to his guitar, tosses it and gives it another kick. He is followed by his father in blue jeans, a denim jacket and a military cap. Both have short black hair and the dark Eastern European Gypsy complexion.
The boy takes another kick, misses and his foot lands on top of the guitar. So the father gives it a kick – bang, roar – showing his son how to have fun destroying a work of art made to create beauty.
I wonder what this kid will be doing for fun in five years? But above all, I understand French anger.
When European capitalists and financiers along with their people in Brussels decided to let Bulgaria and Romania into the European Union, the only thing they were thinking about were the billions of Euros they could make with the new markets and European tax payer money which would flood into the two backwards countries for infrastructure development.
They did not care about the millions of untrained, very often illiterate, poor who would flood west. Now, these same people are complaining because France is expelling thousands of gypsies back to Romania and Bulgaria.
“We told them not to do it,” a German social worker says. “We said there are two million Romas sitting on their suit cases.”
Part of the deal for entry into the EU was that the two countries spend (EU) money on integrating the Roma. But Bulgaria and Romania were corrupt before entering the EU and it did not take long for Brussels to suspend aid to the two because so much was being misappropriated and very little was going where it was intended.
Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Gypsies flowed west where they could take advantage of liberal welfare systems and beg and rob from wealthier western Europeans and set up unhealthy nomad camps.
One Roma deported back to Romania said he was able to get a 7,000 euro eye operation for free for his son in France where the Public Health Service cannot turn people away. He said he was returning to France even though he had been expelled.
That is the other problem — there is no law to prevent those expelled from returning as they are EU citizens with freedom of movement. The French are giving the Roma 300 Euros per adult to return. The bus ticket back from Bucharest costs 60 Euros.
“They are just giving the Roma a paid vacation,” one Romanian official was quoted in the IHT as saying.
This is echoed in the camps in France where a Roma mother of seven said she would come straight back if she were expelled. “Here we get a lot of things for free we don’t get in Romania,” she told French TV.
The popular backlash was to be expected and was encouraged by French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux who, in an obvious attempt to turn attention from government political-financial scandals, declared war on the Gypsies on August 5th. Just after that three young Romas kidnapped and multiply raped a 17 year-old-girl near Nice. Public opinion was exasperated.
Even French gypsies known as Gitanes are fed up. “They are giving us a bad name!” they told French TV.
President Sarkozy, whose opinion poll ratings are a low 30%, and his ruling UMP party are also using the Roma and other immigrant minorities to gain votes on their anti-immigrant right.
Sarkozy has found an easy scapegoat. They are everywhere. At Alésia, I watch a Gypsy man sit his wife and enfant child on the sidewalk outside a Protestant Temple to beg while he goes to a bar a little further down the street.
Within two blocks where I live on rue de Tolbiac there are on average four gypsy women, often with small children, begging outside shops. None of them can even speak basic French. Yet, they know how to work the welfare system which is already deeply in debt.
The French welfare (Sécurité Sociale) system will reach a record of nearly 30 billion Euro deficit this year after more than 20 billion last year. Unemployment still hovers officially at nearly 10%, half the French households pay no income tax (with a disproportionate number of immigrant families included) and criminality among the immigrant communities is enormously high.
A book (Le déni des cultures) by sociologist Hugues Lagrange came out last week highlighting the problem by breaking the taboo in France of doing ethnic studies. He found that families of Sahel origin are four times more likely to commit crimes than the ethnic French. North Africans are three times more likely. One of his recommendations is to favour the liberation of women.
The French wonder what is going on? These immigrants have been in France for 20, 30, and even 40 years for many North Africans and yet have maintained cultures which clash with the country they live in. This despite receiving free educations, child allotment money which is over 1000 euros a month for seven children, public housing subsidies and the list goes on.
It flies in the face of what billionaire speculator George Soros says when he suggests a plan over a generation to integrate the gypsies. If immigrant children who know how to read and write and speak the national language are not integrated after two or three generations, how can you expect to integrate the illiterate gypsies in one?
It does not help that France refuses to incorporate ethnicity in their census because that would make it possible to identify cultural problems and draw up plans for dealing with them. They are French citizens or they are not.
This makes the Eastern European gypsies an easy target for popular anger. They are not French, they are easily identifiable and they have come here, not to work, but to take advantage of a generous country.
So far, the French government has not come under criticism for not attacking the problem upstream when they first arrived. Sarkozy chose to ignore the massive influx for three years. Now, the only solution Paris has found is to pay them to go home, knowing full well, they will be right back after spending the money. The question remains, why is this a French problem?