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French court blocks deportation of Roma

Bloomberg News/International Herald Tribune / September 1, 2010

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PARIS — A French court has blocked the deportation of seven Roma people, also known as gypsies, in a blow to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to dismantle illegal camps.

The administrative tribunal in Lille canceled the deportation orders yesterday, saying the cases didn’t meet the legal standard of posing “a real, immediate, and sufficiently grave threat,’’ according to a statement.

Sarkozy ordered camp demolitions and expulsions after itinerant workers went on a rampage in central France following the death of a man during an identity check. Although the rioters were French citizens, most of the dismantled camps are inhabited by gypsies who hold Romanian or Bulgarian citizenship.

French authorities dismantled 128 camps and deported 977 people to Romanian and Bulgaria in August, the government said Monday.

Meanwhile, France yesterday defended its deportation of foreigners, including hundreds of Roma, and demanded that the Romanian government spend more of the money it gets from the European Union on integrating minority groups at home.

After talks with the European Commission, two French ministers said that the controversial policy is in line with French and European law, rejecting claims of discrimination.

At a press conference in Brussels, the French minister for Europe, Pierre Lellouche, criticized the Romanian government, which, he said, spends only 0.4 percent of the $5 billion it receives annually in subsidies from the European Union on integrating its Roma minority.

Lellouche called on the Romanian government to outline a plan for better integration, focusing on education, housing, health, and training.

The French government argued that the Roma were not targeted specifically as a group.

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