French minister calls for Roma to be sent home
Members of the Roma people in France should "return home" because they are in "confrontation" with the French way of life, the country's interior minister has said.
Manuel Valls was criticised for his comments by Roma groups and some of his government colleagues.
Amnesty International warned yesterday that forced evictions of Roma in France had "reached record proportions", with 10,000 made to leave makeshift camps in the first half of this year.
"The Roma should return to their country and be integrated over there," Mr Valls said on Tuesday. "They should return to Romania or Bulgaria, and for that the European Union, with the Bulgarian and Romanian authorities, must ensure these populations are firstly integrated in their countries."
Mr Valls added that only a "few families" could be allowed to settle, and that there was "no other solution" than dismantling illegal Roma camps.
There are 20,000 Roma migrants living in France, mostly from Romania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia.
Mr Valls was criticised by Roma groups as well as several members of his Socialist party. Deian Koleve, president of the Bulgarian association Amalipe, said the minority was being singled out as "scapegoats", while SOS Racisme said Mr Valls had "crossed a red line" and "stigmatised an entire population".
Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for justice and fundamental rights, accused the French government of using the issue as a smokescreen on the day it announced its budget.