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NORWAY

Keep ‘criminal’ French out of Norway: MP

The French people are not accustomed to being unwelcome in other European countries, but if one right-wing Norwegian MP had his way, they would risk being stopped at the country's borders, along with Roma and Bulgarian 'undesirables.'

Keep 'criminal' French out of Norway: MP
File photo: Fdecomite/Flickr

A Norwegian MP from the anti-immigration Progress Party has called on Norway to shut its borders to organised groups of Roma, Bulgarian and French people whom he accuses of being notorious criminals.

Per Sandberg, number two in the Progress Party which is Norway's main opposition party, proposed "three immediate measures to stop the influx of begging and crime," in a statement posted online on Thursday, which received widespread attention in the media on Friday.

"At the borders, police can [under existing laws] stop organised groups of Roma, Bulgarians or French because we know from experience that these people disrupt the peace and it has also been proven that many of them engage in criminal activities," he wrote.

He did not make it clear how the measure would be implemented in practice.

Sandberg, who is the head of parliament's standing committee on judicial affairs, was not reachable for a comment on Friday.

A debate is currently underway in Norway, one of the richest countries in the world, on whether to ban begging.

The Scandinavian country is to hold legislative elections in September, and opinion polls show the Progress Party could come to power in a coalition with the Conservatives.

According to Norwegian media, Sandberg's text initially only targeted Roma, but in order to not appear too discriminatory, French and Bulgarian nationals were added to the list of undesirables.

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ROMA

Roma in France seek protection after attacks sparked by fake child snatching rumours

Ethnic Roma leaders called for round-the-clock police protection on Wednesday after a series of vigilante attacks in Paris sparked by false reports of attempted kidnappings.

Roma in France seek protection after attacks sparked by fake child snatching rumours
Police have renewed their calls on Twitter not to relay the abduction claims. Photo: AFP

Police arrested 20 people following attacks on Monday night on Roma people in suburbs northeast of Paris following false rumours spread on messaging apps and social media warning of abductions.

“We are calling today on the interior ministry… for immediate protection by way of round-the-clock police presence,” Anina Ciucin, a lawyer and spokesperson for The Voice of Roma group told RMC radio.

She said the reports were “a revival of the medieval stereotype” of Roma in which “gypsies are likened to thieves and child-catchers.”

The attacks appeared to have been sparked by the re-emergence of a long-standing online hoax that has circulated in France for years in which people warn of a white van being used in attempted kidnappings of young women or children.

Police have renewed their calls on Twitter not to relay the claims and have confirmed that there have been no reports of kidnappings in the area.

A Roma camp in 2017 built on an abandoned railway line in northern Paris. Photo: AFP

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux termed the attacks “unacceptable”, adding that this showed “the absolute need to fight 'fake news'”.

“Spreading such rumours in a highly organised and viral way on social media results in violence (and) the stigmatisation of a community,” he said, calling the process “detestable”.

READ ALSO: Paris: Fake rumours of 'white-van' child-snatchers spark attacks on Roma people

In one attack on Monday night in the suburb of Bobigny, some 50 people armed with sticks and knives set upon Roma living in a nearby slum, setting fire to their parked vans.

“Since then we're constantly scared,” said Georghe Marcus, one of around 150 Roma from Romania, Serbia and Moldova who live in wasteland next to a canal.

“We're not sleeping because we're keeping guard all night.”

Roma people were also chased in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois and had to seek refuge in a supermarket to escape violence, according to Ciucin and judicial sources who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

 Tensions

On March 16, a gang of around 20 young people attacked two people in a white van in the Paris suburb of Colombes, leaving both with light injuries, police said.

Many rumours appear to have been spread on the Snapchat messaging service, as well as on Facebook where posts from people claiming their children or family members had been approached by strangers or abducted have been widely shared.

In December, police in the town of Versailles, west of Paris, issued a warning about abduction rumours carried online.

Police reminded social media users that under French law spreading a false rumour could be punished with fines of 45,000 to 135,000 euros.

Tens of thousands of Roma people have lived in France for centuries, but a fresh influx of some 20,000 people, mainly from Romania and Bulgaria, since the 1980s has led to the creation of new slums and increased tensions, according to a 2017 study by the government-sponsored National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

Successive French governments have sought to dismantle the slums and repatriate recently arrived Roma who, while allowed to travel freely in Europe, are not eligible to apply for jobs in France unless they meet certain qualifications.

Between 10 and 12 million Roma people, also known as Roms, live in Europe, of whom six million are within European Union borders, according to the Council of Europe human rights group.

 
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