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France

France to scrap Roma return payments by year end

AFP/Bouillard

France is to scrap payments that aimed to encourage Roma to return to their countries of origin but did nothing to prevent them coming back to France. Interior Minister Manuel Valls said on Sunday that the so-called “humanitarian aid” will be wound up by the end of the year.

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The payments of 300 euros per adult and 100 per child were introduced by the previous right-wing government of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

This assistance did not respect voluntary return because it was used even when people were forced to go back ... some Roma used it to go back to Romania or Bulgaria without paying anything and then coming back to France after a few days or weeks. So, this assistance was not a real effective way to help the Roma people

Jean-Francois Corty, Médécins du Monde

They were available to all European Union nationals but, in practice, intended to encourage Roma to return to Romania and other east European countries.

Rights groups have accused Valls of continuing Sarkozy’s Roma policy, which a UN report described as discriminatory.

Campaigners were particularly critical of the humanitarian payments, claiming that people claimed the money and then returned to France.

France’s Roma population has remained stable, at about 15,000-20,000 people, they claim, despite the fact that 10,600 people received the payments last year.

Parliamentary elections 2012

Valls said that the payments would be scrapped “in the next few days” but that the state would continue to pay for return tickets and provide a 50-euro allowance to help them get home once arrived in their country of origin.

Other aid payments made to deportees will be reduced, the minister added.

At present they stand at 3,500 euros for a couple, 2,000 for an adult and 1,000 for a child.

It will be reduced to the level paid by Germany, Belgium and the Netherland, Valls said, that is about 500 euros per person.

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