Romani people in France

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French Romanis
Total population
est. 20,000 – 400,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Alsace, Aquitaine, Île-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Lorraine, Midi-Pyrénées, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Rhône-Alpes
French, Spanish, Romani, Sinti-Manouche, Erromintxela
Related ethnic groups
Romani people

Romani people in France, generally known in spoken French as gitans, tsiganes or manouches, are an ethnic group that originated in Northern India. Exact numbers of Romani people in France are unknown—estimates vary from 20,000 to 400,000. According to these estimates, at least 12,000 Romani live in unofficial urban camps throughout the country, with French authorities often attempting to close them.


The Romani people originated in Northern India,[2][3][4][5][6][7] presumably from the northwestern Indian states Rajasthan[8][9] and Punjab.[8]

The linguistic evidence has indisputably shown that roots of Romani language lie in India: the language has grammatical characteristics of Indian languages and shares with them a large part of the basic lexicon, for example, body parts or daily routines.[10]

More exactly, Romani shares the basic lexicon with Hindi and Punjabi. It shares many phonetic features with Marwari, while its grammar is closest to Bengali.[11]

Genetic findings in 2012 suggest the Romani originated in northwestern India and migrated as a group.[3][4][12] According to a genetic study in 2012, the ancestors of present scheduled tribes and scheduled caste populations of northern India, traditionally referred to collectively as the Ḍoma, are the likely ancestral populations of modern European Roma.[13]


In France the Romani people are typically classified into three groups:

  • "Rroms", referring to Romani who come from territories from eastern Europe
  • "Manouches", also known as "Sinté" (in Germany and Holland: Sinti), who often have familial ties in Germany and Italy
  • "Gitans", who trace their familial ties to Romani people in Spain[14]

The term "Romanichel" is considered pejorative,[15] and "Bohémien" is outdated. The French National Gendarmerie referred to them in an ethnic database by the acronym "MENS" ("Minorités Ethniques Non-Sédentarisées"), an administrative term meaning "Travelling Ethnic Minorities". However this denomination is not widely spread, since this ethnic database was secret (creating ethnic data is illegal in France).[16]

The exact numbers of Romani people in France are not known, with estimates varying from 20,000 to 400,000. The French Romani rights group FNASAT reports that at least 12,000 Romani, who have immigrated from Romania and Bulgaria, live in unofficial urban camps throughout the country. French authorities often attempt to close down these encampments. In 2009, the government sent more than 10,000 Romani back to Romania and Bulgaria.[17]

In 2009, the European Committee of Social Rights found France had violated the European Social Charter (rights to housing, right to protection against poverty and social exclusion, right of the family to protection) in respect to Romani population from foreign countries.[18]


In 2010 and 2011, the French government organized repatriation flights to send French Romani to Romania. On 12 April, a chartered flight carrying 160 Romani left northern France for Timișoara. As in the 2010 deportations, the French government gave those Romani leaving France €300 each, with €100 for each child. The Romani on the 12 April flight were forced to sign declarations that they would never return to France.[19]

On 9 August, the city of Marseille in southern France forcibly evicted 100 Romani people from a makeshift camp near Porte d'Aix, giving them 24 hours to leave.[20] A chartered flight carrying approximately 150 Romani to Romania left the Lyon area on 20 September.[21] France's goal for 2011 was to deport 30,000 Romani to Romania.[22] As of 2012, France sent about 8,000 Romani to Romania and Bulgaria in 2011, after dismantling camps where they were living on the outskirts of cities. The actions prompted controversy and calls for greater inclusion of Romani people.[23]


Prejudiced views of Romani are widespread in France, with a 2014 Pew Research poll indicating that two-thirds of French people have unfavorable views of Romani.[24] According to a report published by the Human Rights League of France and the European Roma Rights Centre, 60 percent of all Romani living in France were forcibly evicted from their homes in 2016, many in cold winter months.[25]

Rumors and fake news stories of a white van occupied by Romani attempting to abduct children or young women have spread across the French internet on multiple occasions. A number of violent incidents against Romani occurred in March 2019 after rumors of Romani kidnapping children spread on Facebook and Snapchat. Two people in a white van were attacked by 20 youths in Colombes on 16 March. On 25 March, 50 people attacked a Roma camp in Bobigny with sticks and knives, burning several vans, and a separate group of Romani were chased and attacked in Clichy-sous-Bois.[26] Similar incidents occurred in Aubervilliers, Bondy and Noisy-le-Sec.[27]

Notable individuals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Situation of Roma in France at crisis proportions – report". EurActiv. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  2. ^ Hancock, Ian F. (2005) [2002]. We are the Romani People. Univ of Hertfordshire Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-902806-19-8: ‘While a nine century removal from India has diluted Indian biological connection to the extent that for some Romani groups, it may be hardly representative today, Sarren (1976:72) concluded that we still remain together, genetically, Asian rather than European’CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  3. ^ a b Mendizabal, Isabel; et al. (6 December 2012). "Reconstructing the Population History of European Romani from Genome-wide Data" (PDF). Current Biology. 22 (24): 2342–2349. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.10.039. PMID 23219723. S2CID 13874469.
  4. ^ a b Sindya N. Bhanoo (11 December 2012). "Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Current Biology.
  6. ^ Goldberg, K. Meira; Bennahum, Ninotchka Devorah; Hayes, Michelle Heffner (2015). Flamenco on the Global Stage: Historical, Critical and Theoretical Perspectives. ISBN 9780786494705.
  7. ^ Simon Broughton; Mark Ellingham; Richard Trillo (1999). World Music: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Rough Guides. p. 147. ISBN 9781858286358. Roma Rajastan Penjab.
  8. ^ a b Goldberg, K. Meira; Bennahum, Ninotchka Devorah; Hayes, Michelle Heffner (6 October 2015). Flamenco on the Global Stage: Historical, Critical and Theoretical Perspectives. McFarland. ISBN 9780786494705 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Broughton, Simon; Ellingham, Mark; Trillo, Richard (16 August 1999). World Music: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Rough Guides. p. 147. ISBN 9781858286358 – via Internet Archive. Roma Rajastan Penjab.
  10. ^ Šebková, Hana; Žlnayová, Edita (1998), Nástin mluvnice slovenské romštiny (pro pedagogické účely) (PDF), Ústí nad Labem: Pedagogická fakulta Univerzity J. E. Purkyně v Ústí nad Labem, p. 4, ISBN 80-7044-205-0, archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016
  11. ^ Hübschmannová, Milena (1995). "Romaňi čhib – romština: Několik základních informací o romském jazyku". Bulletin Muzea Romské Kultury. Brno: Muzeum romské kultury (4/1995). Zatímco romská lexika je bližší hindštině, marvárštině, pandžábštině atd., v gramatické sféře nacházíme mnoho shod s východoindickým jazykem, s bengálštinou.
  12. ^ "5 Intriguing Facts About the Roma". Live Science.
  13. ^ Rai, N; Chaubey, G; Tamang, R; Pathak, AK; Singh, VK; et al. (2012), "The Phylogeography of Y-Chromosome Haplogroup H1a1a-M82 Reveals the Likely Indian Origin of the European Romani Populations", PLOS ONE, 7 (11): e48477, Bibcode:2012PLoSO...748477R, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048477, PMC 3509117, PMID 23209554
  14. ^ Liégeois, Jean-Pierre. Roma, tsiganes, voyageurs. Council of Europe, 1994.
  15. ^ Kenrick, Donald (5 July 2007). Historical Dictionary of the Gypsies (Romanies). Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810864405 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ "La gendarmerie nie l'existence du fichier sur les Roms". 13 October 2010 – via Le Monde.
  17. ^ "Q&A: France Roma expulsions". BBC News. 19 August 2010. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
  18. ^ "European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. France" (PDF). Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  19. ^ "France resumes deportations of Roma people from Romania". Czech Press Agency. 13 April 2010. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  20. ^ Ira, Kumaran (11 August 2011). "Marseille mayor orders mass expulsion of Roma camp". World Socialist Web Site. International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  21. ^ "France: One Year On, New Abuses against Roma". Human Rights Watch. 28 September 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  22. ^ Bran, Mirel (12 October 2011). "France's Immigration Chief Revisits the Roma Expulsion Issue, in Romania". Le Monde. Worldcrunch. Archived from the original on 22 November 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  23. ^ Marian Chiriac (3 May 2013). "France, EU, Seek Action on Roma from Romania". Balkan Insight. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  24. ^ "Chapter 4. Views of Roma, Muslims, Jews". Pew Global Research. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  25. ^ Safdar, Anealla. "Thousands of Roma 'made homeless' in France in 2016". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  26. ^ "Roma in France seek protection after attacks sparked by fake news". France24. 27 March 2019. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  27. ^ Marlowe, Lara. "Roma attacked in Paris after fake video circulates on social media". The Irish Times. Retrieved 27 March 2019.

External links[edit]