Paris Opens Immigration Summit amid Roma Controversy
Paris hosts on Monday an 'immigration' summit after inviting a handful of member states amid strong controversy stirred by its expulsion of scores of Roma back to Romania and Bulgaria.
Eric Besson, the French immigration minister, has invited interior ministers from Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and Greece. The Canadians have also been invited, while the Belgian EU presidency was added to the list as an afterthought.
Paris hopes that the invitees will lend it support for a common position that penniless migrants can be deported back to their country of origin within EU borders.
The visible absence on the list are Bulgaria and Romania, the two destinations for Roma currently being deported from France.
At the beginning of August, France began a high-profile campaign of dismantling large numbers of illegal Roma camps in a move announced by President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The mass expulsions have drawn criticism from the international community, the Vatican and the UN. During the past week, European Commission also criticized France saying it did not put enough emphasis on individual circumstances.
Sarkozy also faces opposition from his own cabinet with Prime Minister Francois Fillon hinting he disliked the crude links being made between foreigners and crime, while Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he considered resigning over the issue.
The deportations saw 1 000 Roma returned to Romania and Bulgaria last month while 11 000 were expelled from France last year, according to BBC.
France insists the deportations are not contradicting EU laws, including the free movement of people.
Under EU rules, the State can expel people who have been in the country for at least three months without a job and/or are deemed to be a threat to public security.
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