Romania in the dark over Roma facing return from France
Romania has no idea exactly how many Roma will be repatrated from France in the coming months, Romanian secretary of state for Roma affairs Valentin Mocanus said Monday.
Mocanus is travelling to Paris on August 30 to set out a strategy for the reintegration of Roma, after France said it would tear down about 300 illegal "camps or squats" housing Gypsies and travellers in the next three months.
Non-French gypsies who break the law will also be immediately deported, the French authorities have said, while Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux announced Thursday that around 40 camps have already come down.
"It is very important to know what exactly the French authorities mean when they speak about Roma returning to Romania from France, but we should know after the discussions that we will be having," Mocanus said.
On the number of returnees, he said: "There is no exact estimate ... and the measures we will be taking will depend in large part on the number of people to be repatriated."
An "extremely important element" of the upcoming talks in Paris will be a timely bilateral "exchange of information" to enable Bucharest to take appropriate steps towards returnees, the secretary of state said.
Two rights groups that campaign for the Roma community in Romania called Monday for Bucharest to take steps to integrate Roma from France.
Magda Matache, director of Romani Criss, said the Romanian government must develop strategies and programmes at the local level.
Children who have been living in France must be given help in order to fit into the Romanian school system, she said, while older returnees need support in getting jobs and educational qualifications.
"There exists a pointed need for governments to concentrate on long- and medium-term solutions, and not on punishments or the denial of problems," Matache told AFP.
Her counterpart at Amare Rromentza, Mihai Neacsu, said that most Roma who go abroad come from very poor traditional Roma communities living in the countryside "where the biggest problems are" in education and infrastructure.
Such traditional communities represent only a tiny portion of the Roma community in Romania, which numbers 530,000 according to the national census or 2.5 million according to non-governmental organisations.
"When they're offered 300 euros and a free one-way ticket to Romania, the Rom will go home ... stay one or two weeks, give 200 euros to the family, than take a bus to France with 50 or 100 euros, and the scenario repeats itself," Neacsu said.
Both NGOs -- recalling that Roms, as Romanian citizens, enjoy the right of freedom of movement within the European Union -- expressed concern about possible illegal repatriations, and called for Romanian authorities to travel to France to offer legal help to Roma.
"I am afraid that among the repatriated, there will be people whe have been trying to integrate themselves" in France, Neacsu said.
© 2010 AFP