Vigilante Assault

France Decries Attack That Left Roma Teen in a Coma

President François Hollande called the abduction and beating of 16-year-old Darius in a poor Paris suburb ‘unspeakable and unjustifiable,’ but declined to label it a hate crime.

Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty

In the latest disturbing, anti-Roma news from Europe, a teenage immigrant from a shantytown outside Paris is in a coma after being brutally beaten, his body dumped in a shopping cart, by a gang of vigilantes from a multi-racial housing project nearby.

The 16-year-old boy was abducted from a Roma camp on Friday in the impoverished suburb Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, apparently as revenge for attempted burglary. (Identified only as Darius, the teen has been arrested for burglary several times in recent weeks.) The 200 other Roma, known pejoratively as “gypsies,” had fled the camp by Monday, police told French media. They also said Darius’s kidnappers used his phone to call his parents the night of the attack, demanding a €15,000 ransom. The boy’s parents believed him dead until authorities confirmed he was in the hospital two days later.

French President François Hollande has condemned the attack as “unspeakable and unjustifiable” but stopped short of calling it a hate crime.

Tensions have long simmered between France’s estimated 20,000 Roma immigrants, who are mostly from Romania and Bosnia, and the country’s predominantly white population. But the flagging French economy has fueled a rise in populist anger and anti-Roma rhetoric, particularly on the right, as many seek to apportion blame for the country’s general discontent.

In 2010, then-President Nicolas Sarkozy adopted a policy of dismantling Roma camps and deporting unemployed immigrants to combat crime. Hollande’s Socialist government has continued that policy.

Not surprisingly, France’s National Front used immigration as a bargaining chip to gain ground in last month’s elections for European Parliament. The party’s website calls “uncontrolled immigration a of source of tensions in a republic that can no longer assimilate new citizens.”

Louis Aliot, the vice president of the National Front, condemned the latest violence against Roma alongside Hollande but went on to criticize France’s ruling party, saying it wasn’t surprising that the country’s citizens “defend themselves” when the government “fails to protect them.”