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France continues Roma expulsions
About 140 Roma flown to Romania a day after 79 'voluntarily returned' from France.
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2010 12:00 GMT
France offered Roma people living illegally in the country about $380 to return to Romania [AFP]

France has continued to deport scores of Roma people to Romania for a second day.

About 140 Roma were due to be flown to Bucharest, the Romanian capital, on Friday on a "voluntary basis", a day after 79 others left the country, receiving about $380 in the process.

Eric Besson, France's immigration minister, said that the Roma travelling on Friday were doing so on "a purely voluntary basis", with 850 to be repatriated to "their country of origin" by the end of the month.

The Roma are EU citizens, and therefore are legally permitted to move freely within the grouping's nations, however, they are not permitted to stay in France for more than three months without a work permit or proof that they can support themselves financially.

All adults who leave France will receive about $380 and all children $100.

Those who have not agreed to voluntarily return will face forced removal without any cash benefit in a month's time if they do not comply with the regulations for staying in the country.

Crackdown

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has ordered the controversial crackdown on the Roma, traditionally a travelling people.

The case has raised significant concern over discrimination within Europe and calls for Roma communities to be satisfactorily integrated.

Teodor Basconschi, the Romanian foreign minister, warned against "xenophobic reactions" after the economic recession in Europe.

"What has happened in Paris shows that we must have an integration plan across Europe for Roma citizens," Basescu told reporters.

'No lessons'

Besson reacted against criticism of France, stating in an interview with France 2 television: "France is the country in Europe which most respects the rights of foreigners, notably foreigners in irregular situations."

"Or - let's be more modest - one of the most respectful countries, so we do not have any lessons to learn.

"Last year, we gave out 170,000 long-term residency permits. We have become the second country in the world after the United States in granting asylum."

The EU has said that the bloc's freedom of movement laws must be adhered to by France when expelling Roma deemed to be living illegally in the country.

France has said that this is the case.

About 15,000 Roma reside in France, being of Eastern European origin.

Romanian official statistics state that 530,000 Roma live in their country. However, some non-governmental organisations have said that the actual figure is as many as 2.5 million, but that many Roma do not declare their background due to fears of discrimination.

Source:
Agencies
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