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News 11 Sep 12

France, EU, Seek Action on Roma from Romania

A French minister is flying to Romania to try and get Bucharest to address the problem of Romanian Roma now living illegally in France.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

The French Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, and the Minister for European Affairs, Bernard Cazeneuve, are to come to Romania on Wednesday to discuss the sensitive situation of Roma from Romania who are immigrants in France.

“The ministers will be in Romania to deal with this issue at the source. The current situation, in which groups of Roma are living in makeshift camps, cannot continue," the French President, Francois Hollande, said recently.

"We can’t accept a situation in which these people are driven away from their country, are coming to France and living in poor conditions, unable to work,” he added.

Bucharest says it is ready to cooperate with France on the issue of Roma people, but is not to blame for the problem.

“Paris must accept that Roma people are European citiziens, so they have the right to live and work anywhere in the European Union. And none of them was forced to leave Romania,” Dan Sova, the minister for relations with parliament, said on Monday.

An estimated 15,000 Roma people, commonly known as gypsies, live in France, many of them in squalid shantytowns on the fringes of cities. Many come from Romania and from Bulgaria, both EU countries.

In recent years, the French media but also the French authorities, including former president Nicolas Sarkozy, described the camps as centres of illegal trafficking where children were exploited for begging, prostitution and crime.

Ironicall, the French Interior Minister, Valls, has been at the center of a story which involved Romanian criminals.

Four Romanians were recently sentenced to jail for having stolen and used the credit card of Valls’ mother.

She was shopping in a Paris store in May when two of the four Romanians watched her while she was entering her PIN number. The other two later stole her credit card from her bag.

France sent about 8,000 Roma back to Romania and Bulgaria last year, after dismantling illegal camps where they were living on the outskirts of cities. The actions prompted controversy and calls for greater inclusion of Roma people.

The Roma community in Romania is officially numbers around 620,000 in a country of 19 million. But it is widely believed that there are actually at least twice that many Roma in the country.

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