The French government is to make it easier for Roma immigrants to obtain work, without waiting for EU work restrictions to be lifted on people from Romania and Bulgaria next year.
It follows controversy over a series of recent evictions from illegal sites that divided the new socialist government’s supporters.
The Interior Minister Manuel Valls who ordered those operations said he wanted a firm, humane, reasonable policy.
He was one of several ministers who met representatives from the Roma community in Paris.
Under the change of policy, announced after the meeting, the list of jobs open to Roma people will be extended. There will also be moves to improve access to housing.
“The Roma are European citizens who wish to work, who are simply people looking for jobs, housing, who are looking for their dignity,” said Malik Salemkour of the Romeurope campaign group who attended the meeting.
“There is no ‘Roma problem’, the Roma have no specific request, they are only asking to live a dignified life, to live in suitable conditions on French soil. 20,000 people is not a huge number, finding solutions should be possible,” insisted Malik.
The centre-right opposition, who took a harder line in power, say it will not work.
“When our country has an unemployment rate of nearly 10 per cent, it’s illusory to give hope to these people who are often lacking the training they need to work in our country,” said Eric Ciotti, a UMP member of parliament.
Two weeks ago around 300 Roma immigrants were evicted from illegal sites. Most were deported to Romania.
It raised eyebrows at EU level and embarrassed the French Socialist government which had condemned similar practices under President Sarkozy.