In Rome demonstrators took to the streets to protest against France’s expulsion of Roma people. About 1,000 returned to Romania and Bulgaria from France last month sparking Saturday’s demonstrations in European cities.
In Belgrade the marchers were outside the French embassy with banners calling for equal rights for Roma people. There are about 12 million Roma people in the 27 European Union countries.
Brussels was another European capital where protests were staged. Earlier this week the European Commission criticised France saying it did not put enough emphasis on the individual circumstances of those facing expulsion.
An estimated 12,000, led by Roma, turned out in Paris. It was one of over 130 such demonstrations in towns and cities throughout France as protesters voiced their anger at Nicolas Sargozy’s policy which critics see as an attempt by him to revive his popularity ahead of elections in 2012.
“I feel absolutely hurt as French and of course as a Roma. It violates the great words, dear to our hearts: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” explained one protester.
With polls suggesting at least 65% of French people back the policy, the government played down the protests. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux dismissed Saturday’s protests, describing the turnout as a “disappointment” for the organisers.