Council of Europe criticises Roma expulsions

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A top official of the Council of Europe accused Friday some member states of treating Roma gypsies as scapegoats and warned their expulsions may provoke racist reaction.

"Recent developments in several European countries, most recently evictions of Roma camps in France and expulsions of Roma from France and Germany, are certainly not the right measures to improve the situation of this vulnerable minority," Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

"On the contrary, they are likely to lead to an increase in racist and xenophobic feelings in Europe," the president of the council's parliamentary assembly warned.

Cavusoglu spoke as France shipped a second planeload of Roma immigrants back to Romania after a crackdown on the community linked by President Nicholas Sarkozy to criminal activities.

"Taking advantage of the financial crisis, some governments and groups capitalise on fears deriving from the equation made between Roma and criminals, choosing a scapegoat that presents an easy target," he said.

"Roma are among the most vulnerable groups of all."

Cavusoglu urged member states of the pan-European rights body to tackle the Roma issue and find a sustainable solution to the problem of their integration, focussing on education, employment, housing, health care and political participation.

Twelve million Roma gypsies live in Europe and they represent, in some countries, more than five percent of the population, according to estimates by the Council of Europe.

The situation of the Roma in Europe will be one of the subjects Cavusoglu discusses during his visit to Romania August 29 to September 1.

© 2010 AFP

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