French justification for Roma expulsions 'invalid': Romania

31st August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Romania on Tuesday rejected France's justification of its expulsions of Roma migrants on security grounds, saying the argument was "invalid", its Europe Minister said.

"The argument of a violation of public security made by France is not valid based on the information at our disposal," Bogdan Aurescu told AFP after a meeting with European Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding.

The figures for delinquence supplied by French authorities showed that "only 708 Romanian nationals were imprisoned last year in France to serve a sentence", he said.

"Only 1.2 percent of the total number of people charged in France were Romanian citizens," said the minister, noting that the majority were charged with petty crimes.

"Given that none of the 500 people repatriated so far have been jailed in Romania or France, it follows that their return has been made on the suspicion of future crimes, which infringes the presumption of innocence," he said.

French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux on Monday said the number of crimes committed by Romanians in Paris -- many of whom are Roma -- had increased by 259 percent in the last 18 months.

Aurescu also questioned whether the Roma were returning voluntarily, as the French government has said.

"I asked the European Commission to verify if these are genuinely voluntary repatriations, taking into account the circumstances of the successive dismantling of the camps, to the extent that the people in question are obliged to accept the offer to return to their country in exchange for a sum of money," he said.

France has expelled approaching 1,000 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria since launching a high-profile crackdown last month.

The crackdown brings the total number of the minority expelled so far this year to 8,313, compared with 9,875 expelled in total last year.

Those who agree to go voluntarily are given small cash grants, those who do not are expelled by judicial order.

© 2010 AFP

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