Vatican slams France over Roma

2010-08-20 19:27
Vatican City - The Vatican on Friday joined a chorus of criticism of France's crackdown on Roma, saying Paris was flouting European norms as mass expulsions of members of the minority continued for a second day.

"One cannot generalise and take an entire group of people and kick them out," said Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Vatican's Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People commission.

"The mass expulsions of Roma are against European norms," said Marchetto.

Responsibility for crimes "is individual, not collective", he added.

France expelled around 10 000 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria in 2009, but flights begun on Thursday and continued on Friday were the first since President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a tough law-and-order crackdown explicitly linking crime and immigration.

Repatriations of Roma are to total around 850 in August, according to French Immigration Minister Eric Besson.

"I think the issue of our travelling brothers' integration goes beyond France, it's a European issue," Marchetto said.

The European Union's executive arm has said France must abide by the bloc's freedom of movement rules when it expels Roma living illegally in the country.

The French foreign ministry has insisted that its action against the Roma is in line with European rules. Those who have left so far have volunteered for deportation.

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