August 28, 2010

Sarkowzy vows to continue expulsion of Roma from France

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said he will continue his controversial crackdown on Roma (gypsies).

He was speaking at his first cabinet meeting after the summer break, amid growing questions over his leadership.

Hundreds of Roma have been sent back to Romania and Bulgaria and more than 100 illegal camps dismantled.

The operation has been criticised by human rights watchdogs and Mr Sarkozy's opponents, who accuse him of using the issue to boost his flagging support.

Mr Sarkozy is under pressure to tackle soaring public debt, but unions are threatening major strikes over plans for pension reforms.

Romania has questioned whether the repatriations comply with European law and the EU Commission has said it is concerned about them. The Commission is to report on the expulsions next week, says the BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris.

France, which says it expelled 10,000 Roma last year, says it is acting in accordance with EU law by repatriating Roma who have been in France for more than three months without work. It also says most of the repatriations are voluntary.

About 635 Roma have been sent back to Romania and Bulgaria, after their camps were shut down in a crackdown announced last month, Immigration Minister Eric Besson said on Wednesday.

By the end of the month "around 950" will have been repatriated, he told Europe 1 radio.

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