France deports hundreds more Roma
France was set Thursday to deport hundreds more Roma as two Romanian ministers held talks in Paris to discuss President Nicolas Sarkozy's crackdown on travelling people.
Police escorted two buses carrying Roma men, women and children to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, an AFP journalist there said. The government said 283 Roma would be deported Thursday to Romania from Paris and Lyon airports.
The deportations come after Sarkozy, citing concerns about crime, began a high-profile crackdown this month on Roma, Gypsies and travelling people that saw police rounding up foreign Roma and dismantling illegal campsites.
The controversial crackdown has drawn fire from the right, the left, the Catholic Church and a United Nations anti-racism panel while failing to boost the president in the opinion polls.
Immigration Minister Eric Besson said Wednesday the government was stepping up its campaign to send Romanian and Bulgarian Roma home, noting that more than 8,000 had been deported, mostly "voluntarily," since the start of the year.
Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said he had statistics showing that "delinquency" by Romanian nationals in France had risen by 138 percent last year.
The two ministers on Wednesday met in Paris with Romania's junior minister for Roma integration and a junior interior minister and afterwards said that both countries would cooperate more closely on the issue.
A joint statement underlined "the will of the Romanian and French governments to better manage bilateral migratory flows, and to support the reinforcement of integration policies for disadvantaged populations."
The two Romanian ministers were meeting France's European affairs minister Pierre Lellouche in Paris early Thursday.
Forty-eight percent of French support the government's campaign to dismantle unauthorised camps and expel Roma migrants, according to an opinion poll by the CSA agency in Le Parisien newspaper.
The European Union's top justice official expressed concern on Wednesday over France's expulsion of Roma and said her office was reviewing whether the crackdown complied with EU law.
Hungarian-American billionnaire investor George Soros meanwhile urged France to stop "the mass expulsion of Roma" and asked the EU for a "comprehensive inclusion plan."
"Men, women, and children in Europe cannot be expelled on grounds of their ethnic origin without legal process to determine whether they have committed crimesm," he added.
Soros is chairman of the Open Society Foundations which claim to have spent around 150 million dollars improving the lives of Roma "by removing barriers to education, health, and employment."
France's population of Roma, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, was estimated at around 15,000 before the expulsions began.
Citizens of Romania and Bulgaria, both EU member states, benefit from free circulation within the bloc.
But the French labour market is not fully open to them and if they do not have a job and lodging after three months they are required to leave the country.
© 2010 AFP