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French Immigration Minister Says Roma Deportations to Continue


France's Immigration Minister said Friday his country will not stop deporting Roma (Gypsy) people to Romania and Bulgaria despite pressure from the European Union.

Speaking in Romania Friday, Immigration Minister Eric Besson said he wanted to state clearly that France has no intention of ending the Roma deportation.

On Thursday a majority of European parliamentarians voted on a resolution calling for France to end the expulsions. Besson described the resolution as 'political diktat' and said Paris would not comply.

Speaking on French radio Besson said France is notable in Europe for protecting those on the margins of society.

He said France is helping Roma resettle in their own country with financial aid - around $400 for an adult and just over $100 for a child.

France has deported around 1,000 Roma from its borders since August. The government says the group threatens social order in France.

But over 300 European Union MPs say the French policy discriminates on the basis of race and ethnicity.

British Member of the European Parliament Jean Lambert says that the French government is sanctioning intolerance.

"The way in which certain governments at the moment, when it becomes politically expedient, ramp up the language - they ramp up the publicity, they ramp up the expulsions and legitimize the discrimination against a particular group - we think is extremely dangerous," said Jean Lambert.

According to the European Commission, the Roma is the largest ethnic minority group in the EU. Around 15,000 are estimated to be in France. But it's not the only country moving to expel them. Italy has also cracked down on Roma this week, dismantling camps in Milan and Rome.

Mark Lattimer from the London-based Minority Rights Group International says Roma discrimination is rife across Europe.

"It's part of a pattern that we're seeing in Western Europe now, as well as in Eastern Europe, of serious discrimination amounting in some cases to physical attacks against the Roma and that is a deeply worrying situation, particularly given Europe's long standing history of persecution against what is now Europe's most vulnerable minority," said Mark Lattimer.

French Immigration Minister Besson said Friday France would help returned Roma integrate within Romania.

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