UN warns France over Roma deportations

UN warns France over Roma deportations
# 28 August 2010 04:13 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. France has received a stern UN warning to avoid collective deportations of Roma and to refrain from "discriminatory" political speeches against minorities, APA reports quoting “Telegraph”.
In the latest international broadside over France’s hardline policy on expelling Roma, a UN anti-racism panel urged the country to "avoid" such grouped deportations and "strive for lasting solutions".
"Our concern is that the removal or return of the Roma has been done on a collective basis rather than examining their individual circumstances," said Pierre-Richard Prosper, a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Members of the panel also expressed concern about "political speeches of a discriminatory nature in France".
France immediately slammed the report. Pierre Lellouche, the Europe minister, dismissed it as "excessive and caricatured" and claimed it was strewn with "numerous factual errors". "I note that no (EU) member state has criticised France on its (Roma) policy," he added.
Francois Zimeray, France’s ambassador for human rights, also rubbished the findings, saying: "It’s very easy to give lessons," especially from "countries that don’t make a tenth of the efforts that we’ve accomplished".
France launched a countrywide crackdown on Roma this month after a group of Gipsies allegedly attacked a police station. Critics say President Nicolas Sarkozy is exploiting the Roma issue to boost flagging support from the far-Right.
Some 283 Roma were sent home on Thursday, bringing the total number of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma deported so far this year to 8,313, already 1,000 more than the total expelled throughout last year.
Mr Sarkozy has pledged to raze 300 illegal Roma camps in the coming weeks.
Domestically, the move has been slammed by the Left but also by several prominent right-wingers, with one MP saying the dismantling of camps and deportations were reminiscent of Nazi round-ups in France in the Second World War.
It has sparked equal international criticism. The European Union said it is reviewing if the move is legal and the Vatican has spoken out against it.
Yesterday the French government said it was "scrupulously respecting European law" and helping deported Roma reintegrate.
It claimed that each case of expulsion was being handled individually and that those who returned voluntarily were given a grant to help their reintegration.
"In only a minority of cases are departures carried out as forced deportations," it said.
But the UN panel described the Roma as victims of "violence with a racist characteristic."
It also expressed concerned about a general rise in racism and xenophobia in France and criticised a government plan to withdraw French nationality from foreign-born nationals who commit serious crimes, such as killing a policeman.
President Sarkozy will next week launch moves to pass a law on the matter.
France will seek support for its drive to expel ethnic Gipsies to Eastern Europe at a special summit of carefully selected interior ministers next week.
Eric Besson, the French immigration minister, has invited British, Italian, German and Spanish interior ministers to Paris on September 6 to seek support for a common position that migrants without sufficient means can be returned to their country of origin within EU borders.