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Updated: September 9, 2010 22:26 IST

Halt expulsions of Romas, France told

Vaiju Naravane
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A woman holding a placard, demonstrates with several thousand people in Marseille, southern France, last week against the French government's explusion of the Roma people. The placard reads:
AP A woman holding a placard, demonstrates with several thousand people in Marseille, southern France, last week against the French government's explusion of the Roma people. The placard reads: "It's not immigrants and Roma we need to expel, it's Sarkozy and his policies ".

The European Parliament (EP) in a strongly worded resolution on Thursday called on France to immediately suspend the expulsion of members of the Roma community to Romania and Bulgaria and urged the French government to integrate rather than stigmatise these European citizens. The European Parliament also decried the tame response of the European Commission “as guardian of the EU Treaties”. Discrimination against any ethnic group or nationality is banned under EU law.

France riposted, with its Minister for Immigration, Integration and National Identity Eric Besson declaring “there was no question” of France taking its orders from the European Parliament.

In their resolution, adopted by 337 votes to 245, MEPs said they were “deeply concerned by the inflammatory and openly discriminatory rhetoric that has characterised political discourse during the repatriations of Roma” which lend “credibility” to rhetoric and hate methods employed by far-Right extremist groups. The Resolution was tabled by centre-Left, liberal and Green MEPs.

Since August, France has deported about 1,000 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria. Italy has also engaged in large-scale dismantlement of Roma camps and the expulsion of Roma populations from Italy.

Two French Ministers, Minister for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche and Minister for Immigration Mr. Besson, are in Bucharest to discuss an emergency plan that France wants Romania to implement. “France will call for commitments on police and judicial co-operation to fight human trafficking and to help the integration of Roma within Romania,” said French European Affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche.

Often referred to as gypsies, the Roma belong to nomadic tribes that are said to have migrated to central and Eastern Europe from India some 1,000 years ago.

In its Resolution the European Parliament expressed “its deep concern at the measures taken by the French authorities and other member states' authorities targeting Roma and Travellers and providing for their expulsion” and said it “urges those authorities immediately to suspend all expulsions of Roma”.

France on Thursday also expressed anger over the comments of a senior European official who compared the rhetoric accompanying the expulsions to tenets held by the Nazis. Mr. Lellouche said he would officially ask Thomas Hammarberg, the EU Commissioner for Human Rights, to explain his comments. Mr. Hammarberg's comments were both “shocking and surprising”, he said. On the social networking site Twitter Mr. Hammarberg wrote that “the current political rhetoric against the Roma is similar to the words used by the Nazis and fascist regimes. Politicians must show more responsibility”.

California-based Hindu and Jewish groups also applauded the European Parliament for sending a strong message to French President Nicolas Sarkozy regarding his apparent “witch-hunt” against Roma (Gypsy) community.

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