France Says 1600 Bulgarians Deported since Jan 2010
French authorities have deported more than 21 000 people since the beginning of the year and nearly 1 600 were Bulgarian, according to official figures, in stark contrast with the data of the Bulgarian government.
According to figures presented by Immigration Minister Eric Besson to the National Assembly Wednesday, of the 21,384 people deported from France in the first nine months of 2010, some 13,000 were Romanian and Bulgarian.
15 455 of these were forcefully deported, including 6562 Romanian and 910 Bulgarian nationals.
Of the 5,929 assisted returns this year – those who were given a plane ticket and 300 euros in cash – 5,086 were Romanian and 683 were Bulgarian.
In 2009 there were 9,875 Romanians and Bulgarians deported.
Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry has announced that fewer than 100 Bulgarian nationals have returned voluntarily from France since the beginning of the year after being given a plane ticket and 300 euros in cash.
Roma from Romania and Bulgaria are allowed free passage into France if they are European Union citizens. After that, however, they must find work, start studies, or find some other way of becoming established in France or risk deportation.
French officials have said the deportations are part of a broader crackdown on illegal immigration, but they have sparked major criticism at home and abroad.
French authorities have claimed that the responsibility for integrating Roma people rests on their home countries, not on the EU country in which they chose to reside. They also claim that Roma returns are completely voluntary.
Bulgaria's government has been keeping a low profile over France's Roma crackdown, apparently fearing that tension with Paris might put at risk its Schengen accession.
The country hopes to join the EU's border-free zone by the end of 2011 as scheduled and the official line is that recent expulsions of mostly Romanian and Bulgarian Roma from France is irrelevant to that process.
The local media however, where the deportation made front-page news, have accused the government of shying away from an open confrontation with France, for fear this could jeopardize its Schengen accession, touted as one of the main priorities of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
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