Children and European solidarity are being linked to France’s Roma expulsion policy — with illegal encampments lying in tatters. Meetings between national and EU officials are being planned — one confirmed for Tuesday.
The French government wants to discuss economic and social integration in the Roma’s countries of origin, mostly Romania and Bulgaria.
In a statement on the closure of the camps, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said:
“Twenty-five years ago, Romania and Bulgaria and other countries were not in the EU, and the Berlin Wall had not fallen. With Europe now in existence, it is up to each country to integrate its people. It melts my heart to see them — not only the Roma but them in particular — treated badly, exploited, children drugged so as to appear ill in order to invite pity; there is a real oppression and even enslavement of these populations. It does not in the least amuse me. How to remedy this? Through my resignation? I thought about it!”
Paris said around a thousand Romanians and Bulgarians have been returned to their own countries in the past month — voluntarily — and more than 8,000 this year.
Yet a UN human rights body on Friday said the deportees had not been fully informed of their rights or had not freely consented to return.
Analyst Anaïs Faure Atger with the Centre for European Policy Studies added her criticism of the French president’s move: “Mr. Sarkozy cannot collectively deport people by quota. To justify the expulsion of an EU-citizen there must be an individual evaluation.”
The French government says ministers and European Commissioners will talk the matter over in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Paris said it is studying law reforms to facilitate deportations in the interest of public order, citing concern over a social security strain, crime and aggressive begging.