Roma protest in Romania against French crackdown
Dozens of Roma protested on Monday in several cities in Romania against a French crackdown targeting their community.
The turnout was lower than expected but organizers, mainly Roma rights groups, said they had "called only on militants to join the demonstrations".
Hundreds of Roma recently expelled from France "are traumatized enough by their expulsion", they explained.
In Bucharest, about 60 people, mostly young Roma, gathered in front of the French embassy carrying banners reading: "Stop Sarkozy, stop expulsions" or "Roma are European citizens" and throwing French products in garbage cans.
"Ethnic Roma like me are discriminated against in France", one of the demonstrators, Alin Banu, a student in political sciences born in Craiova southern Romania told AFP.
"People use stereotypes against (the Roma) and unfortunately this trend is gaining ground in Europe", he added.
"We are also calling on the Romanian government to do more for Roma integration here", Roma Civic Alliance Director David Mark told AFP.
According to him, progress registered in the last few years with the presence of Roma mediators in schools is threatened because authorities do not show enough interest.
"We need more political will", he insisted, saying that 41 percent of Roma actively looking for a job in Romania have been turned down because of their origin.
In Timisoara in the west, about 40 Roma demonstrated in front of the French cultural centre. They were about 20 in northwest Cluj and Petrosani in the west.
Romania's Roma community is the biggest in Europe with 530,000 people, according to the official census, 2.5 million according to non-governmental organisations.
The French right-wing government embarked on a major law and order clampdown in July, which included the much criticised expulsion of nearly 1,000 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria.
© 2010 AFP