Gypsy deportations under attack

EU
Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has urged the European Commission to take
legal action against France over its deportations of Roma (Gypsies).

Ms Reding called French actions a
“disgrace”.
She deplored the fact that a leaked official memo contradicted assurances given
to her by France.

France
voiced “astonishment” in response to her statement.

It
deported nearly 230 Roma on Tuesday alone, flying them to Romania from Paris
and Marseille.

Nearly
160 were flown out of the French capital to Bucharest, and 69 out of Marseille.

All
had agreed to be repatriated in exchange for cash payments of about $423per
adult and $130 per child.

More
than 1,000 people have been deported to Romania and Bulgaria since late July,
when President Nicolas Sarkozy linked illegal Roma camps to crimes such as
prostitution and child exploitation.

Critics
see the law-and-order crackdown as a way for Mr Sarkozy to boost his flagging
popularity amid discontent over government cutbacks.

EU
disciplinary action against France could lead to substantial fines.

France
denies that the expulsions target an ethnic group, saying they are done on a
case-by-case basis. It also insists that most of them are voluntary.

Last
week Euro MPs accused the Commission of failing to protect the Roma deported
from France.

Ms
Reding said she would propose legal proceedings by the Commission over France’s
treatment of the Roma and that a Commission decision would be taken within two
weeks.

The
case would then go before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, she
said.

France
is accused of violating EU law, which bans discrimination against any ethnic
group or nationality.

“I am personally
convinced that the Commission will have no choice but to initiate infringement
proceedings against France,” Ms Reding said.

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