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France deports more Roms despite critics

AFP

France is to deport a further 139 Roms on Friday, defying criticism at home and abroad of its clampdown on foreign-born travellers. Some of Thursday’s 86 deportees told RFI in Romania that they are likely to return.

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President Nicolas Sarkozy has come under fire from the Roms Austrian spokesperson … Rudolf Sarközi.

"If these people were offered land where they could live with dignity, that would be a step towards integration," Sarközi told Le Monde newspaper. "The most important thing, which requires more effort, is educating the youth.”

Sarközi says he is not related to the French president, whose is of Hungarian origin. But, he adds, their common family name is typically Rom.

Police escorted three busloads of Roma into Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport to take a flight for the Romanian city of Timisoara. They appeared to have come from the Paris area and south-west France. A camp with 53 occupants has been disbanded in the western town of Dompierre-sur-mer.

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government describes the departures as voluntary. Deportees are given 300 euros per adult and 100 euros per child. But any foreign-born Roma who refuses to take a flight will be ordered to leave within a month without the cash.

And they are entitled to return at any time, a right which many say they are likely to exercise.

“I’ll look at the opportunities here,” Gabriel, who was thrown out on Thursday, told RFI’s Luca Niculescu in Bucharest. “And, if there aren’t any, I’ll go back to France.”

France expelled about 10,000 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria last year, according to officials, and Immigration Minister Eric Besson that 850 will be thrown out in August.

The expulsions have grabbed headlines partly because of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s announcement of a law and order crackdown which has given rise to charges of racism by linking crime and immigration.

Opposition Socialist MP Arnaud de Montebourg on Friday accused the government of “official racism” after Families Minister Nadine Morano, in a radio interview, accused Roma mothers of drugging their children to keep them drowsy while begging.

"We're coming to a kind of official racism that says, 'these people are the cause of all our woes, please have a go at them and forget our own failure in the fight against crime'," he said on RTL radio.

Romania and Bulgaria have protested at the French action, while the European Commission has called on Paris to “respect the rules” on freedom of movement within the European Union.

The free movement of labour is a "fundamental right” within the European Union, which Romania and Bulgaria joined in 2007.

But citizens of new member states may be subject to restrictions on their right to work. France is one of ten countries which oppose this clause. But it deports Romanians and Bulgarians if they are deemed a threat to public order, or an unreasonable burden on the social security system, or if they have not found work within three months of arrival.

To obtain work they must obtain the appropriate papers, which may take more than three months, and Roms are only likely to work in about 150 jobs, such as building, hotels or fishing.

But, once deported, they can come back. And Romania and Bulgaria will join the Schengen free movement area in March 2011.

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