Massive protests have taken place across Europe against the French government’s deportation of Roma.
Thousands of people have attended demonstrations in Paris and other French cities to protest against tough new security measures introduced by the government which they say are being used to target the country’s Roma community.
France began clearing large numbers of illegal Roma camps in July, after Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, announced a series of measures to fight crime.
Police said about 12,000 people had demonstrated in the French capital but organisers put the total nearer to 50,000.
Human rights, labour unions and leftist political parties accuse Sarkozy of stigmatising minorities and seeking political gain with the security crackdown.
They also say he is violating French traditions of welcoming the oppressed, in a country that is one of the world’s leading providers of political asylum.
Thousands of people have attended rallies in Paris and 130 other French towns to protest at the government’s policy of deporting Roma people.
Police say turnout across France was slightly more than 77,000 while organisers put the figure nearer 100,000.
With polls suggesting at least 65% of French people back the policy, the government played down the protests.
The EU parliament is to debate the Roma situation in Europe next week.
About 1,000 Roma (Gypsies) returned to Romania and Bulgaria from France last month, while official figures record that 11,000 Roma were expelled from France last year.
The League of Human Rights, which called for the demonstrations, said it wanted to counteract government “xenophobia” and what it described as the systematic abuse of Roma in France.
The rallies were backed by the opposition Socialist Party and the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), France’s second largest trade union confederation.
Trade unionists, students, anarchists, illegal immigrants and others turned out in Paris to the sound of whistles and drums.
The actions of the French government are nothing short of racism, targeting a under-represented impoverished minority because it is easy. And what happens when the Roma are gone? Who will the French government turn their attention on next as part of their nationalist agenda?
Even though I cannot physically attend the rallies, this is a declaration of solidarity with the Roma people.