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August 5, 2021

France starts Roma repatriation to Romania, Bulgaria today

A total of 371 Romanian Roma will be expatriated from France on three flights, according to the state secretary in charge of Roma problems in the relationship with France, Valentin Mocanu, quoted by Mediafax. He said the three flights are scheduled on August 19, 20 and 26 and that all 371 Roma are returning voluntarily.

The first 79 repatriated Roma will reach Romania today, followed by 132 tomorrow and 160 more next week, he said.

For the time being all repatriations are voluntary but there will also be forced repatriations as more camps are demolished, RMC.fr informs, quoted by Agerpres. Those expulsed from France on Thursday are Romanian citizens that were living illegally in France and that voluntarily chose to return to Romania in return for EUR 300 per adult and EUR 100 per child. The French government insists the procedure is not out of the ordinary, with one flight of this kind taking place each month. The French office for immigration and integration who is handling the repatriations is chartering special flights when the number of Roma is too high for regular flights. Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux has announced the demolishment of 51 Gypsy camps but human rights organisations claim the persons living there have only moved and have one month at their disposal to leave French territory. After that deadline expires they will be arrested and forcefully repatriated, set to be escorted by police until they arrive in Romania. Still, most of the expulsed Roma ethnics have returned to France, according to the organisations that are in contact with them.

FM worried by risk of populist side-slipping

Romanian Foreign Affairs Minister Teodor Baconschi stated on Wednesday in an interview for RFI that he fears populist side-slipping and xenophobic reactions in the case of France’s announcement concerning the expulsion of Roma ethnics. “The acquis communautaire stipulates a member state’s right to expel a European citizen to another member states only in extremely drastic conditions, in conditions of severe social danger. You asked me whether the law was respected in the case of each of the Romanian citizens that were subjected to this expulsion. I hope that is the case, I also express my concern for the risk of populist side-slipping and of the emergence of some xenophobic reactions against the backdrop of the economic crisis. It’s a precedent that worries us and we hope that on August 30 we will reach, through a highly sustained bilateral institutional dialogue, some conclusions worthy of the strategic partnership between France and Romania,” Baconschi answered in his interview for RFI. He announced that on August 30 Romanian secretaries of state Valentin Mocanu and Dan Valentin Fatuloiu will pay a visit to Paris with the goal of proposing a series of joint measures that would answer the needs of the Roma community. At the same time the Minister added that the proper solution is represented by “honest cooperation” not by “populist arduousness.”

“Stigmatising an ethnic group or adopting collective approaches is illegal in Europe. The European Parliament’s and European Council’s Directive 38/2004 stipulates the right to free movement and settlement for European citizens and the members of their families. So the principles are very clear. France was and continues to be the land of human rights so I don’t believe we can talk about the legality or moral legitimacy of collective expulsions. (…) There is a need for an individual approach and, at the same time, there is a need for more commitment from both sides for the effective integration of these Romanian citizens,” Baconschi said. He underlined that the relations with France are working very well and that their background has remained intact.

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