This week, France said that it will increase deportations of foreigners caught stealing or begging aggressively. This is going to be a crackdown on the Roma minority that has sent shock waves around the world.
Bucharest warned that Paris’s drive to send thousands of Roma back to Romania and Bulgaria was “no solution”, as the OSCE joined an international chorus of condemnation and a Roma group announced a boycott of French goods.
The French have outlined measures to stop illegal immigration and people trafficking that originates in Romania and Bulgaria. Immigration Minister Eric Besson announced plans to change the law to allow easier deportation of offenders.
“We must broaden the possibilities for issuing deportation orders (for people who pose) a threat to public order by repeated acts of theft or aggressive begging,” he told reporters.
Speaking at the same press conference, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux noted that one in five thefts in the Paris area was carried out by Romanian citizens.
Crime by Romanians in the French capital rose by 259 percent over the past 18 months, he said. Many Romanians in Paris are from the Roma minority.
“Today in Paris the reality is that the perpetrator of one theft in five is a Romanian,” he said, adding: “One theft in four committed by a minor is committed by a Romanian minor.”
France launched a country-wide crackdown on unauthorised Gypsy camps this month after a group of Gypsies allegedly attacked a police station.
While French-born Gypsies and transients are to be moved out of camps, Eastern European Roma who can not prove they have enough means to integrate into mainstream French society are to be flown back to Romania and Bulgaria.
Those who agree to go voluntarily are given small cash grants, those who do not will be, by order of law, quite simply deported.
The government deported 283 Roma last Thursday, bringing the total number of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma expelled so far this year to 8,313, up from 7,875 expelled throughout last year.
Romania’s Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi warned the deportations would not solve the problems facing the minority, and called for dialogue between the two countries and at EU level.
“These voluntary repatriations in exchange for money that our fellow Roma citizens receive for coming back to Romania are not a solution,” he told Romanian national television TVR.
He insisted on the need for “funds, political will, bilateral and European dialogue and concrete programmes” to improve the Roma’s lot.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was the latest to join the outcry over France’s policy, saying it risked stigmatising Roma and travelling minorities.
“Implicating the Roma and Travellers collectively in criminal activities based on individual cases could only contribute to stigmatising these communities,” said Janez Lenarcic, director of the OSCE human rights office.
A United Nations anti-racism panel, members of the European parliament, the Vatican and human rights group Amnesty International have all criticised the crackdown.
The European Union is reviewing whether the policy is legal.
A federation of Romanian Roma groups called Monday for a Europe-wide boycott of French products and services to protest against the clampdown.
France has invited fellow European interior ministers to a meeting on “asylum and illegal immigration” in Paris on September 6.
The Romanian NGOs also called on “Roma brothers and sisters, friends of all ethnic groups, all those committed to the principles of equality” to protest outside French embassies.