France begins expelling Roma

The deportations have been denounced by rights groups who say they risk stigmatising an entire community.

France begins expelling Roma

Roma expelled from France under a controversial crackdown launched by President Nicolas Sarkozy's government began arriving back in Romania on Thursday.

Dozens of men, women and children left a plane that landed at Bucharest's Aurel Vlaicu airport in the early afternoon, carrying sacks, prams and other baggage.

The French government said 79 Roma would be "repatriated" on flights to Bucharest on Thursday under a plan that foresees expelling 700 people to Romania and Bulgaria by the end of the month. Flights were leaving from airports in Paris and Lyon.

Last month Sarkozy ordered that 300 Roma and traveller camps be dismantled.

The deportations have been denounced by rights groups who say they risk stigmatising an entire community.

"Xenophobic reactions"

Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi said on Thursday in an interview on French radio he was worried about the risk of "xenophobic reactions" to the campaign. Romanian officials are due in Paris next week to discuss it.

The opposition has accused Sarkozy, whose ratings have slid this year amid scandals and high unemployment, of seeking to distract voters from his woes with the anti-crime campaign.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-nation European Union bloc, said on Thursday it was closely monitoring the situation and urged Paris to respect the bloc's rules on citizens' rights.

The French government has said most of those it is repatriating are leaving on a "voluntary basis". It has offered to pay those who agree to return 300 euros ($384) each and an additional 100 euros for children.

"The deportations serve to return these people to their country, and to demonstrate that we will not put up with the establishment of illegal camps in our country, as we have done for too many years," Family Minister Nadine Morano said.

"Plan to come back"

Some question the viability of the plan, arguing it is a waste of resources as nothing will prevent those who have received cash from returning days later.

Romania and Bulgaria are members of the European Union. Under EU regulations, citizens are free to settle in any other EU country, but must show that they have means to support themselves within three months of arriving.

"Some of these families have been in France for five, seven or ten years and 300 euros is not enough to help them settle in Romania. They will return in the coming weeks," said Malik Salemkour, vice president of the French Human Rights League.

In Choisy-le-Roi, a suburb on the outskirts of Paris, a school gymnasium has been converted to temporary accommodation for over 20 families whose illegal camp along a motorway was dismantled by police last Thursday.

Most of them, 50 adults and 23 children, sleep in camp beds while waiting to hear when they will be repatriated. Most said they had nothing to look forward to in Romania and would either come back or move to another European country.

"If they send me back to Romania, I'll come back within three days," said Rodica Novakovich, 38, who hails from a small town outside Timisoara in western Romania and says she makes ends meet by selling cut flowers on Paris street corners.

"I have nothing in Romania. I don't have a house or a farm or a job waiting, what am I going to do there?," she said.


Last Mod: 19 Ağustos 2010, 17:57
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