France to repatriate 140 more Roma
France was preparing to repatriate nearly another 140 Roma, a day after almost 100 were flown back to Romania under a controversial crackdown ordered by President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Published: 9:35AM BST 20 Aug 2010
Immigration Minister Eric Besson said that 139 more Roma would be flown to Romania, insisting that the repatriation was being carried out on a purely voluntary basis.
Today 86 people left France, Mr Besson said, adding that nearly 850 people will be sent back to their country of origin by the end of this month.
Another group is supposed to leave for Romania on August 26, with each adult granted 300 euros and each minor 100 euros.
Although the Roma are EU citizens mostly from Bulgaria and Romania they need to have a work permit if they stay in France for more than three months or prove they have the means to support themselves.
Those who do not wish to return voluntarily receive an order to leave France with which they must comply within a month or face forced repatriation without the cash handout.
With unease growing over the roundups, the interior ministry insisted that each case had been looked at individually.
Romanias President Traian Basescu said the expulsions showed the need for a Europe-wide plan on integrating Roma communities while Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi warned against xenophobic reactions after the economic downturn.
What has happened in Paris shows that we must have an integration plan across Europe for Roma citizens, Mr Basescu said.
Mr Besson rejected criticism against the crackdown, saying France did not need to be preached. Last week members of a UN committee had said xenophobia and racism were on the rise in the country.
France is the country in Europe which most respects the rights of foreigners, notably foreigners in irregular situations, or lets be more modest one of the most respectful countries, so we do not have any lessons to learn, he said in an interview with France 2 television.
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.
About 10,000 Roma from Romania and Bulgaria were returned to their countries last year, but these are the first expulsions since Sarkozy in July announced a clampdown on foreigners.
There are about 15,000 Roma of Eastern European origin in France.
The French foreign ministry insisted its action against the Roma was in line with European rules.
The measures taken by the French authorities with regard to dismantling illegal camps fully conform with European rules and do not in any way affect the freedom of movement for EU citizens, as defined by treaties, foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
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