Italian minister praises France's crackdown on Roma

21st August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Italy's interior minister praised Saturday France's crackdown on Roma and Gypsies, saying it was "simply copying Italy" in flying more than 200 members of the minority to Romania this week.

"For years now, Italy has been using the technique of voluntary and assisted repatriation," Roberto Maroni, one of the leading figures in the anti-immigrant Northern League, said in an interview published in the daily Corriere della Sera.

Maroni said he would like Italy to be able to expel EU citizens that do not meet minimum requirements for income and housing and who weigh on the host state's finances.

"Many Roma are EU citizens but do not fulfill any of these requirements," said Maroni, whose party that is the main ally of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in parliament.

The European Union does not allow member countries to expel EU citizens, but Maroni said he would discuss the issue with other European interior ministers on September 6 in Paris.

Amid international criticism, France flew Roma out of the country on "a voluntary basis" on Thursday and Friday in exchange for grants of 300 euros (385 dollars) per person.

But any foreign-born Roma caught up in French President Nicolas Sarkozy's crackdown on illegal Gypsy camps who refused to take a flight will be issued orders to leave France within a month, without the handout.

The measure was harshly criticised by the French opposition, the Vatican and the Council of Europe.

France expelled around 10,000 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria last year, but the flights this week are the first since Sarkozy announced a tough law and order crackdown that explicitly linked crime and immigration.

© 2010 AFP

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