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France mulls migration rules after Roma row

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17:29 CEST+02:00
France's Socialist government will Wednesday seek to end a row over its treatment of ethnic Roma migrants in a move that could result in Bulgarian and Romanian citizens being granted the right to work in the country.

President François Hollande and his Interior Minister Manuel Valls have come under fire this summer for sanctioning the dismantling of several Roma camps and repatriating hundreds of their residents to Bulgaria and Romania.

Valls has insisted the clearance of "illegal and squalid" camps, which are home to an estimated 15,000 Roma across France, is necessary and justifiable.

But several leading Socialists, Green members of the government and Roma rights groups have criticised him for continuing the controversial policies of
former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

With divisions in the government becoming increasingly apparent, Hollande has ordered ministers to thrash out their differences at talks on Wednesday.

Housing minister Cécile Duflot, a Green, has called for a moratorium on the dismantling of camps unless residents can be offered alternative accommodation or sites.

Valls regards that as unrealistic, arguing that primary responsibility for the well-being of the Roma lies with their countries of origin, where they have been discriminated against for centuries.

The interior minister has however indicated that he would be favourable to allowing Roma to work in France.

France is one of a number of European Union countries which declined to grant Bulgarian and Romanian workers unrestricted access to their labour
markets following the two countries' 2007 accession to the European Union.

Critics argue that the policy puts Roma migrants in an invidious position since they can be deported because they cannot demonstrate that they can
support themselves but, at the same time, they cannot seek work legally.

One of the EU's founding principles is that citizens should be able to work in any member state, and the transitional arrangements permitted when Bulgaria
and Romania joined must be phased out by the end of 2013 in any case.

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