US official urges France to respect rights of Roma

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A US State Department official on Wednesday urged France to "respect the human rights" of the Roma community, after President Nicolas Sarkozy's drive to deport them to Romania and Bulgaria.

"Obviously the human rights of the Roma is something that is important to us and we would encourage France and other countries to respect the human rights of the Roma," said the official, who declined to be identified.

France has been under fire for weeks and faces the threat of European legal action over its policy of deporting member of the traveling communities.

The French government has expelled thousands of Roma, whom the government accuses of acts of criminality, including aggressive begging and theft.

The French government has charged that one in five thefts in the Paris area was carried out by a citizen of Romania, noting that many Romanians in Paris are from the Roma minority.

France has deported some 1,000 Roma migrants to Bulgaria and Romania since last month, and more than 8,000 Roma have been deported since the beginning of the year, after 9,875 were expelled in 2009.

© 2010 AFP

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