France's Hollande condemns attack on Roma teenager

Abandoned Roma camp in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, near Paris, 16 June (image: Natalia Gallois) The abandoned Roma camp (photo by journalist Natalia Gallois)

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French President Francois Hollande has condemned a lynch mob attack which left a Roma (Gypsy) teenager badly injured on a Paris housing estate.

A mob took the 16-year-old from a Roma camp in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine on Friday after he was accused by locals of burglary, a police source said.

Found dumped in a supermarket trolley, the victim is in a critical condition.

The 200 or so people in the camp fled the area the same evening, according to Le Parisien newspaper.

Mr Hollande said the attack was "unspeakable and unjustifiable", and he wanted "everything done" to find the attackers.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the judicial police had been mobilised to investigate the attack.

The presence in France of thousands of Roma people from Eastern Europe has been a hot political issue since the summer of 2010 when the conservative president of the day, Nicolas Sarkozy, called for the removal of their illegal camps, saying they were rife with crime.

Since coming to power in 2012, the Socialists have stepped up the policy of camp clearances, and France has also continued to deport thousands of foreign camp-dwellers every year, mainly to Romania.

Human rights organisations have warned against a rise in violence against the Roma in France, where they are often accused of being behind a rise in petty crime. the BBC's Christian Fraser reports from Paris.

'Locked in cellar'

The teenager, named by Le Monde newspaper as Darius, had been living with his family in the makeshift camp close to the Cite des Poetes housing estate.

Accused of a burglary a few hours earlier, he was taken from the camp, reportedly by masked men, and allegedly locked in a cellar where he was violently beaten.

It was the boy's mother who alerted police.

According to doctors, his life is now in danger and he has been put in a "medically induced coma".

The mayor of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine said the boy had been questioned by police several times this month in connection with a string of robberies in the housing estate.

It had fuelled the anger towards the Roma who arrived three weeks ago.

Following the attack, Roma people in the camp fled "with what they could carry on foot, by tram or by car", a local Romanian garage owner told Le Parisien.

A 2006 survey (in French) of the Cite des Poetes estate (population 2,980) found levels of unemployment and lack of secondary education well above the average for the Paris region.

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