It seems H G Wells was right. Over in France, the Eloi are starting to realise the Morlocks are among them:
In recent years, with the EU’s relaxation of travel restrictions across mainland Europe, hundreds of thousands of Roma gipsies, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, have travelled west in search of a better life.
As many as half a million are estimated to be living in France, according to the European Roma Rights Centre. And many of them have chosen to take up residence in vast shanty towns that have sprung up on wasteland in the suburbs of Paris.
Each morning, a small army of women and children leave these illegal camps and catch trains into the city centre, where many spend the day trying to exploit, harass and steal from tourists.
That’s now it starts. This is how it continues:
A few pick pockets. Others — like the group which struck in Place Sainte-Opportune — ‘swarm’ passers-by, using the ensuing confusion to brazenly steal from them.
Last month, an organised gang of gipsies upped the ante, attacking two minibuses full of Chinese visitors stuck in traffic as they travelled from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, stealing thousands of euros in cash.
The French aren’t entirely passive:
In short, hostility to the Roma is contributing to the re-emergence of the racist Right in France, so much so that the country’s National Front party is on the verge of taking a lead in national opinion polls.
The past fortnight has seen tensions spill over. Several violent ‘revenge attacks’ by demonstrators carrying baseball bats, iron bars and petrol bombs have been reported at Roma camps.
But these actions are lawless because the law is no longer their protection.
‘Welcome to Europe’s open borders,’ an exasperated senior police officer told me this week. ‘All of these kids are ultimately members of gangs from Romania and Bulgaria. They pitch their caravans on the outskirts of town.
‘Hundreds of them are trying to steal — and they’re becoming increasingly confident in how they do it. We can barely touch the kids because they’re considered too young in the eyes of the law.’
We, however, are still tightly bound, like the Eloi, to out passivity:
Hollande’s pugnacious interior minister, Manuel Valls (who is already known as the ‘Sarkozy of the Left’), stated openly that he wants to send tens of thousands more home, since the Roma ‘do not want to integrate’.
In Britain, where EU ‘open borders’ legislation is due to take effect in January — meaning Romanian and Bulgarians will be free to live and work in the UK, just as they currently are in France — such comments would raise eyebrows, and quite possibly risk prosecution.
It’s going to be an interesting few years to come, isn’t it? I wish I had a Time Machine…