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France

French government to loosen limits on Roma employment

Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

France’s Socialist government is to loosen restrictions on the employment of Romanians and Bulgarians, following uproar on the left over the deportation of Roma and the razing of two Roma camps.

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The government announced Wednesday that it will scrap a payment by employers who wish to employ Romanian or Bulgarian citizen and add a “significant” number of jobs to the 150 they can currently apply for.

The restrictions, which also apply in seven other European countries, were introduced by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government when Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union to discourage immigration by Roma from those countries.

Over the summer Interior Minister Manuel Valls gave the OK for the clearance of two Roma camps and a number of deportations of Roma, sparking accusations that he was continuing the Sarkozy government’s “repressive” policies.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s response was to call a meeting with nine ministers to discuss phasing out the previous policy and coordinate measures such as providing housing and education to ensure evicted Roma have alternative accommodation and other measures of social support.

The government has also promised to approach the other seven EU countries to discuss an early end to the limits on employment.

But camps will continue to be cleared, the prime minister’s office insisted, adding that local officials will be given further instructions on how to handle Roma who have been evicted.

France’s principal Roma support group, Romeurope welcomed the shift in policy away from treating it as “a repressive and ethnic question” but European anti-racist campaign Egam declared itself “extremely dissatisfied” with “mini-measures”.

Right-wing MP Eric Ciotti called the change “economically irresponsible”.
 

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