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French take to the streets to protest Roma expulsions

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-09-14

Demonstrations are planned for Saturday across France to protest the government’s recent attempt to link immigration and crime. The protests are being viewed in France as curtain-raiser for the far larger nationwide labour strike set for Tuesday.


A coalition of activists, unions and political parties are expected to turn out Saturday across France to protest against the government’s recent immigration crackdown. The so-called “Day of Action” will focus particular attention on the recent forced repatriation of hundreds of itinerant Roma back to Bulgaria and Romania.
Organisers have reportedly planned protests in over 130 cities across France and outside of French embassies in several European Union capitals to protest against what they characterise as Paris’s increasingly “xenophobic” immigration agenda and the hardening of French policy towards the Roma.
What's the legal status of travelling Roma in the EU?

The majority of Roma originate from Romania and Bulgaria, which both became European Union member states in 2007, allowing their citizens to travel freely to other EU countries. Neither country however, is part of the Schengen area, which comprises 22 of the 27 EU member states.

That means that if they have been in a country for more than three months and have no job or no proof of substantial means on which to support themselves, they can be deported at any moment. The same goes if they are found guilty of a public order offence.

The protestors are also going to voice their opposition to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s announcement in late July that the government will look into the possibility of stripping French citizenship of foreign-born criminals. The president made the remarks following a series of riots this summer in the mountain city of Grenoble.
The crackdown against the Roma began in late July when authorities began dismantling allegedly illegal settlements, and returned approximately 1,000 people back to their home countries, some even against their will.  Those moves prompted outrage among immigration rights activists and even the European Commission, who questioned the legality of the tougher French policy. Although Romania and Bulgaria are members of the European Union, both countries have yet to finalise the treaty that permits its citizens to share the same residency freedoms that citizens of other EU members states enjoy.
A day of protest
The first protests are scheduled to begin today outside of the Ministry of Immigration in Paris at 11:00am local time. A number of artists are expected to perform as protestors mobilise before heading over to a larger demonstration which is set to begin at 14:00 at Place de la Republique. 
The afternoon rally is expected to bring together a diverse coalition of leading housing and immigration activist groups as well as several of the country’s largest labour unions. The event will also feature a diverse range of leftist political parties including representatives from the Socialists, Green and other more left parties.
The protestors allege the government’s new immigration policies are illegal as they appear to be exclusively focused on the Roma. "This is a blatantly racist policy that targets a population for ethno-racial reasons," added Laurent El Ghozi, president of gypsy rights organisation.
"What unites us is our common commitment to democracy" said Jean-Pierre Dubois, president of the League of Human Rights at a press conference on Thursday.
Preview of Tuesday?
Many people will be watching the turnout at Saturday’s rallies for clues as to what may happen on Tuesday when labour unions have planned a nationwide strike to protest the government’s proposed pension reforms. The country’s two largest unions, the CDT and CGDT, have both announced plans to disrupt public transportation, education and telecommunication services on Tuesday, the same day that Labour Minister Eric Woerth is expected to present the government’s new pension plan to the National Assembly.


Date created : 2010-09-04


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