France shuts 40 Roma camps: minister

12th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

French authorities have torn down more than 40 camps housing hundreds of Roma immigrants since announcing a crackdown on the minorities two weeks ago, France's interior minister said Thursday.

Some 700 people have been driven out of the illegal camps and will be "sent back to their countries of origin," namely Romania and Bulgaria, on "specially chartered" flights, Brice Hortefeux told a news conference in Lyon.

Hortefeux on July 28 vowed to tear down 300 illegal camps housing Roma or Gypsy immigrants and expel those from other EU states who break the law, after President Nicolas Sarkozy said the minority posed security "problems."

The move is part of a broader "war on crime" announced by Sarkozy, whose opponents have accused him of stirring up racial sensitivities and security fears to bolster his flagging popularity.

An opinion poll published last week however showed that 79 percent of voters approved of measures to dismantle the camps and similar majorities backing other aspects of his law and order policy.

Hortefeux said he would meet Romanian junior ministers next week and "remind them of the strong need to strengthen operational security between our two countries," calling for Romanian police to assist in the crackdown in France.

© 2010 AFP

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