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Romania vows 'total cooperation' on Roma

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10:19 CEST+02:00
Romania will provide "total cooperation" with France in its effort to deal with Roma migrants, President Train Basescu told visiting French ministers Wednesday.

"On the Roma problem, I assure you we are open to total cooperation, including sending police reinforcements to France," Basescu said as he welcomed Interior Minister Manuel Valls and Europe Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

"But we cannot accept phrases like Romania 'persecutes' ethnic Roma populations," the president added, alluding to remarks made by Valls. "Romania does not persecute any citizen from its territory."

On Tuesday, Valls said France "cannot welcome all the misery of the world and of Europe.

"Today, we cannot afford to accommodate all these people who are often wretched of the earth, who are persecuted in their country, who are discriminated against," he added.

Romania has already sent police officers to help their French colleagues dismantle Romanian criminal networks operating in France.   

But the French policy of closing migrant camps and repatriating the Roma with a €300 incentive has been widely criticised. Critics have said the money Paris will give the Roma to return home will be used by them to buy bus tickets back to France.

And the visit by the French ministers comes two days after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern over France's recent forced closures of Roma camps in France.

Romania, one of the two poorest countries in the European Union, has the biggest Roma minority in Europe: 620,000 according to the latest official census; more than two million according to local rights groups.

Many Roma have emigrated to escape the poverty in their country.

France hosts an estimated 15,000 Roma from Romania and Bulgaria – though that is far less than in Spain or Italy, according to figures gathered by the Soros Foundation

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By the end of the month, Valls insisted, 7,000 Romanians and Bulgarians would be sent back to their home countries.

But Roma rights groups in France and Romania lashed at the French policy on Wednesday.

"Today, the French governement is at the forefront when it comes to persecuting an ethnic group" often living in very poor conditions, Romani Criss, the main Roma rights group in Romania said in an open letter written with eight other groups that was addressed to Valls.

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