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Almost three weeks ago France has begun the deportation of possibly thousands of members of the Roma (aka Gypsy) minority, to Romania and Bulgaria (member states of the E.U.)...

 

Roma mother and their children sit next to luggage
in Bucharest, Romania, after deported from France

 
Opposition politicians, labour unions and human-rights organizations have widely condemned the operation as abusive and racist, saying the Roma have too often been Europe's scapegoats.


On Aug. 18, the E.U. Commission for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship reminded France of the "freedom of movement for E.U. citizens." It also warned that it would be watching France closely to make sure due process and the rights of European Roma were being respected.


But despite the criticism, the Sarkozy administration is moving ahead with the plan...


But at least since y'day a broadly organized resistance takes the streets of France to damand: "Stop Deportation! Stop the State-operated Racism!"...


Today's Haaretz/AP reported the following:


Thousands march across France against decision to expel Gypsies


Protesters accuse Sarkozy of stigmatizing minority groups like Gypsies and seeking political gain with a security crackdown. They also say he is violating French traditions of welcoming the oppressed, in a country that is one of the world's leading providers of political asylum.


Thousands of people marched in Paris on Saturday to protest expulsions of Gypsies and other new security measures adopted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy's government.

 


Protesters blew whistles and beat drums in the largest demonstration among those in at least 135 cities and towns across France and elsewhere in Europe. Human rights and anti-racism groups, labor unions and leftist political parties took part in the protests.

 


They accuse Sarkozy of stigmatizing minority groups like Gypsies and seeking political gain with a security crackdown. They also say he is violating French traditions of welcoming the oppressed, in a country that is one of the world's leading providers of political asylum.


The protests mark the first show of public discontent since the conservative Sarkozy, a former hardline interior minister, announced new measures to fight crime in late July.


Sarkozy said Gypsy camps would be systematically evacuated. His interior minister and other officials said last week that about 1,000 Roma have been given small stipends and flown home since then.


For years, Sarkozy has used his image as a tough, law-and-order politician to win political support. Sarkozy has linked Roma to crime, saying their camps are sources of prostitution and child exploitation. The latest moves by Sarkozy came after violence between police and youth in a suburban Grenoble housing project and other clashes in a traveling community in the Loire Valley.


Sarkozy also said naturalized citizens who threaten the lives of police officers should lose their citizenship - and his leftist critics slammed that proposal as anti-constitutional and evocative of nationalist measures during France's collaborationist past in the Vichy regime during World War II.


"Mr. Sarkozy is there to stand for the Constitution, not to trample it," said Jean-Paul Dubois, president of France's Human Rights League. "So we consider this situation extremely dangerous, that's why we are here."


Paris police said some 12,000 people took part in the protest in the capital and that no violence took place. Organizers estimated that 100,000 people took part in such marches across the country - though they did not immediately estimate how many of those attended the largest one, in Paris.


Small groups of Gypsies took part, including women with flowered skirts, sandals or looping earrings, and men in jeans with gold caps on teeth in the corners of their smiles. But they were far outnumbered by left-leaning political parties, labor unions, and dozens of activist groups like those supporting illegal immigrants or gays.


"It warms the heart to see so many people out here. Fortunately, there are nice people in the world," said Delia Romanes, walking behind a banner of a 17-year-old Gypsy circus that she heads in northeastern Paris. She said the government has recently sought to strip its performers of their work papers.


Other Roma without proper residency rights were more fearful.


"We are afraid. We aren't prepared for this, said David Anghel," a 24-year-old mason from Romania, who has lived in France for eight years. Holding the banner of a Gypsy-support association, he said his wife had been served with an order to leave their camp in Fleury-Merogis, south of Paris, about 10 days ago. They fear police will come to expel them in the next few days.


Similar peaceful protests took place outside French embassies elsewhere in Europe. In Belgrade, Serbia, dozens of Gypsies chanted anti-racist slogans and held banners calling for an end to the expulsions from France.


http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/thousands-march-across-france...1.312191


 
Related articles:
France Steps Up Deportation of Roma (Time, 9.01)

French protest over Roma expulsions (al-Jazeera, 9.04)

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