France: Anti-Xenophobic protests of mass Roma deportations

A week of protests in France has begun with a march in Paris in support of the Roma. An estimated 12,000, led by Roma, turned out in Paris. It was one of over 130 such demonstrations in towns and cities throughout France as protesters voiced their anger at Nicolas Sargozy’s policy which critics see as an attempt by him to revive his popularity ahead of elections in 2012.

Thousands of members of the nomadic group have been sent back to Eastern Europe in recent weeks after the French authorities intensified repatriations.

The government says it is a crackdown on crime – but there is been widespread criticism, including from the EU and UN.

“I am really glad that there are people who support us, because persecuting and expelling human beings like this is not acceptable. It’s pretty grim to see the return of racism in 2010” said one woman in the crowd.

Cynics say the action is part of a drive by President Nicolas Sarkozy to divert attention away from his low popularity, pension reforms and spending cuts.

For some, like Pierre Dubois of the Human Rights League, his policies belong on the far-right:

“I think it is important to remember that Mr Sarkozy is not allowed to make the rules all by himself. We have a parliament, the courts, the European Court of Human Rights. The issue of deciding whether these expulsions are legal is far from being sorted.”

The government faces a bigger test on Tuesday, when workers stage a nationwide strike and protests over the pension issue.

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