Bulgaria backs French efforts against Roma offenders
Bulgaria's government and some Roma leaders on Thursday backed French efforts to close down migrant camps and expel offenders amid protests by Roma rights activists.
"Bulgaria and Romania are undertaking joint efforts to bring back Romas who have violated law and order in France," Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told journalists.
Sofia was already exchanging information with Paris to determine the number and identity of the Roma offenders to be deported, he added.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Vessela Cherneva also backed France's position.
"We have requested from the French side additional information on the problem but, in principle, we share the view that all citizens must observe the laws of the country in which they reside," said Cherneva.
And Bulgaria's Euroroma party, which represent the community in parliament, gave its "unconditional support" to Sarkozy's efforts, in a special statement to the French embassy in Sofia, obtained by AFP.
"No one has the right to abuse the traditionally established tolerant multi-ethnic relations in France," party leader Tsvetelin Kanchev said.
"It is high time to call things by their real name... We urge an even stricter approach against some of the offenders, namely those involved in procuring," Kanchev told AFP.
But the Hungary-based European Roma Rights Centre on Thursday slammed the move as discriminatory, calling in a statement for "an end to plans which would lead to gross human rights violations of these marginalised groups."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy had said earlier that members of the itinerant minorities, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, posed security problems.
He vowed to intensify a crackdown on illegal gypsy camps across France.
Bulgaria's Roma population is estimated at about 800,000 people, most of whom live in severe poverty and are often the victims of discrimination.
© 2010 AFP