What happened to Darius in the City of Poets, a poor immigrant district in the bleak northern suburbs of Paris, has shocked France.
Now, to add to the distressing accounts, a picture of the battered 16–year–old Roma boy, has been passed to The Telegraph.
Darius was beaten by a gang of youths, dumped in a supermarket trolley and left for dead on the side of the road.
A mob of about 20 balaclava–wearing vigilantes snatched the teenager from his family after he was accused of burgling a nearby flat.
They dragged him from the squalid Roma camp where his family had moved a month ago, hauled him across the tram lines to the nearby housing estate, and pummelled him in the basement of a building. A neighbour, a Roma who has been living in the area for several years, later found the boy unconscious in a car park, slumped in a trolley, wearing his red T–shirt and track suit bottoms, his face swollen and bruised.
“I brought him back here and called the ambulance,” said the neighbour, who provided The Telegraph with the gruesome picture of the boy, who yesterday was still in a coma fighting for his life in a Paris hospital after suffering multiple skull fractures.
President François Hollande denounced last Friday’s assault as an “unspeakable and unjustifiable attack on all the principles on which our republic was founded”. But critics say government policy has stigmatised France’s 20,000–strong Roma community, who mostly come from Romania and Bulgaria.
The attack on Darius, whose surname has not been disclosed, was “the result of several years of inefficient public policy which maintains the misery of these Roma communities and allows the racism latent in French society to prosper”, said Le Monde newspaper in its frontpage editorial.
France’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, faced stinging criticism late last year when, as interior minister, he said most Roma in France had no intention of integrating and should be sent back to their countries of origin.
The issue caused nationwide student protests in October after authorities took a 15–year–old Roma girl off a bus in front of her classmates during a school trip so that she could be deported along with her family to Kosovo.
Most of the Roma in France live in makeshift camps, with no water or electricity. Some are known to run gangs of children who operate as pickpockets around tourist sites in central Paris.
The Socialist government has pursued controversial policies begun under the previous conservative administration of Nicolas Sarkozy, demolishing Roma camps and sending many of their residents back to their home countries.
Officials in northern Paris said the boy, whose picture has not been verified by his family, was known to police and had been questioned a number of times this month in connection with a string of robberies, but had no convictions.
The teenager’s family fled in panic after the beating.
Sylvie Moisson, a prosecutor in charge of the case, described the attack as “an act of barbarism”.