Bulgaria plays down expulsion of Roma from France
Bulgaria's ambassador to France on Sunday played down the expulsion of dozens of Roma from France to Bulgaria and Romania this week, insisting the move should not be overly dramatised.
"I find unacceptable this baseless and artificial dramatisation of a completely normal practice," Marin Raykov told Bulgarian radio, insisting that the expulsions concerned only "a limited number" of people.
"There is nothing more normal than for a member state of the European Union, like France, to try and ensure that its laws, as well as European norms, are obeyed," he added.
Bulgarian authorities and the media have generally said little about France's crackdown on the Roma, or Gypsy, minority living illegally in the country.
A first group of 13 Roma arrived almost unnoticed on Friday evening in Sofia, while another 11 were expected on Wednesday and nine on September 10, according to foreign ministry spokeswoman Vessela Cherneva.
More were expected in the second half of September, but the total number of Roma returning to Bulgaria from France should not be more than 50, she said.
Bulgarians and Romanians, who joined the European Union in 2007, may not stay longer than three months in France without a student or work visa.
Defying international criticism, France has already sent home more than 200 Roma residing illegally in the country as it began to implement a tough law and order crackdown announced by President Nicolas Sarkozy that explicitly linked crime and immigration.
The ambassadors of France and Italy in Sofia -- Etienne de Poncins and Stafano Benazzo -- also reacted Sunday to a recent article in the daily Sega, which had described the expulsions from France as "the greatest official mass deportation in Europe since World War Two," in reference to the deportation of Jews under the Nazis.
Such a comparison "is not only offensive but absurd," the ambassadors said in a joint statement published by Sega.
"The return to one's own country cannot be interpreted as deportation," they added.
© 2010 AFP