France to demolish 300 illegal Romany camps

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France to demolish 300 illegal Romany camps

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France’s President Sarkozy promised a crackdown against delinquency last week. Now he has ordered the dismantling of some 300 illegal camps of travellers and Roma across France, with the immediate deportation of anyone found without papers. The announcement came after a special ministerial meeting in Paris to discuss the Roma “problem”.

“We will proceed with the almost immediate deportation of the Romas who have disturbed public order or have committed fraud, to Bulgaria or Romania,” said Interior Minister Bruce Hortefeux.

Some human rights groups have been alarmed by the move, and say it risks stigmatising a social group with long-established cultural traditions.

“There are maybe between half a million and a million travellers who are French citizens and whose rights are denied. I hope that Nicolas Sarkozy is going to be able to take this into account to fight racism and do away with these discriminations,” said the lawyer for the French Roma Associations Henri Braun.

The issue came to a head this month in the small town of St. Aignan in central France where police shot and killed a 22 year-old. About 50 angry Roma armed with axes then attacked the local police station and government property.