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Rights group claims France police illegally collecting Roma DNA

The League of Human Rights (LDH) [advocacy website, in French] on Thursday accused French authorities of improperly collecting DNA samples from Roma migrants [JURIST news archive]. French police may collect samples of genetic material from indicted individuals, though the organization contends that police have subjected the Roma to such procedures without being either arrested or charged [France24 report]. The allegations come shortly after reports that the country's Central Office for the Fight Against Itinerant Delinquency (OCLDI) [materials, in French] has maintained a database [Le Monde report, in French] of illegal documents pertaining to Roma families, their ethnic origins and their "specialties." The Ministry of the Interior [official website, in French] denied knowledge [press release, in French] of such a database, except for a similar one deleted in 2007, and ordered an investigation into its existence. Categorizing demographic data by ethnicity is illegal [Telegraph report] in France, punishable by up to five years imprisonment and fines.

Last month, the European Commission [official website] warned France that the country would face disciplinary proceedings [JURIST report] and potential legal action if it did not follow EU regulations in its relations with Roma migrants. Also in September, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged EU members to stop forcibly deporting Roma migrants to Kosovo [JURIST report]. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] in August with France's recent expulsion policy for Roma migrants, a day after the EU Parliamentary Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats [official website] labeled the policy a violation of EU law [JURIST report]. France defended its handling of the Roma [Telegraph report], saying only few cases result in forced deportation and that France was helping those displaced reintegrate into their countries of origin. In July, French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French] ordered measures against illegal Roma communities in France and announced legislation [JURIST report] that would make deportation easier. At the time, the French government aimed to dismantle half of illegal Roma camps within three months and to immediately deport all those found to have broken the law.

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