Soros urges France to stop the mass expulsion of Roma

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Billionnaire investor George Soros on Wednesday urged "France to stop the mass expulsion of Roma" and asked the European Union for a "comprehensive inclusion plan".

"The deportation of Roma now under way in France runs the risk of violating French and European law", Soros said in a press release.

"Men, women, and children in Europe cannot be expelled on grounds of their ethnic origin without legal process to determine whether they have committed crimes", he added.

The right-wing French government recently launched a controversial crackdown on Roma and Gypsies.

Amid fierce criticism from opposition politicians and human rights groups, France has flown about 635 Roma back to Romania and Bulgaria since the end of July on a so-called "voluntary basis" and with a 300-euro handout for every adult.

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

However, Soros said "the French government was right to call for measures to improve employment and development opportunities for Roma in their countries of origin, in this case Bulgaria and Romania."

Given "the scale of the problem", Soros asked the European Union to design "a comprehensive and effective plan for Roma inclusion" and to unblock funds for early education.

Europeans cannot "afford another lost generation of Roma", Soros said, pointing out that "one-third of the entrants into the labour force by 2015 will be Roma in countries such as Hungary".

Soros is chairman of the Open Society Foundations which claim to have spent around 150-million dollars "to improve the lives of Roma by removing barriers to education, health, and employment."

© 2010 AFP

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