Today we read that France has begun the process of deporting 700 Roma - the first of many moves to remove European Union citizen's by force. This follows the forcible closure and destruction of 51 Roma sites by the French police. Another 250 have been targeted.
This is the 'measured' response of the embattled, corruption-tainted presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy. As his poll-rating tumbled he seized upon the incidence of a riot by Romanies involving an attack upon a police station following the killing of a Romany teenager.
The Roma have been offered 300 Euros to leave voluntarily - only 79 have taken up the offer. It puts me in mind of the money offered by BNP leader Nick Griffin to 'encourage' foreigners to leave Britain.
Let us not forget the history of the Romany people: pilloried, enslaved and persecuted throughout the centuries under regimes of all political flavours; it seems acceptable, even under a liberal democracy, to hate the Romany people. If you think I am exaggerating, replace the name of any other religious or ethnic group into any headline containing the words Gypsy, Roma, Romany, Traveller and see how comfortable it makes you feel.
Even worse - consider the fact that the Romany people were, along with the Jews, targeted for complete annihilation by the Nazis and somewhere around a million were slaughtered. No homeland for them after the war, no worldwide respect for their suffering, no abatement of the racism towards them.
We can try to comfort ourselves with the knowledge that France has form - look at the deportation of Jews from France during the war, not just by the occupied French, but also volunteered by the collaborationist government of Vichy France. However, you only have to look at some of the stories about Travellers our newspapers print (alongside the cartoons they use to illustrate them), the laws our government pass or the unsubtle campaigning of all political parties to recognise that we have no reason to feel comfortable with our own treatment of this much maligned community.
What the French government is doing is despicable; sadly, it is not surprising, We should be ashamed.