France's Roma crackdown breaches EU law: lawmakers

26th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

France has breached laws of the European Union by deporting hundreds of Roma migrants from Romania and Bulgaria, the Socialist bloc of the European parliament said on Thursday.

The parliament's second largest group urged the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, and the European Council, the body representing the bloc's 27 states, to condemn the French government's crackdown.

"The recent treatment of Roma people in France was appalling and cannot go unchallenged," Martin Schulz, head of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, said in a statement.

"Their rights have been abused for populist, electoral reasons by a government that is fast losing support," Schulz said.

The Socialists, following a similar call by the parliament's Liberal bloc, asked the commission and the council to issue a declaration on the issue at the legislature's next session in Strasbourg, which begins September 6.

The Socialists accused France of "breaching EU law" on the free movement of EU citizens.

"Scenes like those we have recently witnessed in France must never be repeated," Schulz said, urging the commission to implement an action plan to promote the inclusion of Roma in society.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, citing concerns about crime, has ordered police to step up deportations of Roma from eastern Europe and to dismantle unauthorised Gypsy camps.

Since July 28, the French authorities have returned 681 people back to Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, in a crackdown that has drawn fire from the left and right as well as the Vatican.

EU Justice Commission Viviane Reding expressed concern about the crackdown on Wednesday and said her office was analysing whether the French government's actions complied with EU law.

Under an arrangement to protect the labour market that expires in December 2013, France can expel Romanians and Bulgarians after three months in the country if they cannot show they have the financial means to stay.

© 2010 AFP

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