Bulgarian Roma slam French 'discrimination'
Bulgarian Roma associations slammed France's "policy of discrimination" towards its people on Saturday, as protesters gathered for the first time in front of the French embassy in Sofia.
"The people you are throwing out have not committed any crime: if that was the case, they would have been arrested and charged," some 12 Roma organisations wrote in a joint letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which they delivered to the embassy.
About 150 Roma gathered Saturday outside the French embassy, the first demonstration in the country since France accelerated the expulsion of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma last month.
The protesters chanted "Europe is with us" and carried banners saying "Sarkozy is legalising racism," "Poor doesn't mean criminal, No to deportation" and "Liberty, equality, fraternity", which is the French national motto.
They also called on France to "apologise and renounce acts of discrimination."
Meanwhile, in another open letter to Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Roma organisations said they were "unhappy that the Bulgarian government had put aside its policies on Roma integration."
"It is inexcusable that the Roma are considered a burden on society and a threat to public order," the letter said.
Bulgaria has an estimated 700,000 Roma, or about 10 percent of the population, most of whom live in abject poverty.
According to the Bulgarian foreign ministry, some 150 Roma have been expelled from France back to Bulgaria since the beginning of the year.
© 2010 AFP