ANN CAHILL: No intent to expel Roma, says Merkel

GERMAN ChancellorAngela Merkel has been forced to deny she intends expelling Roma after she has been dragged into the row over France deporting Roma.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy assured journalists after the rowdy Brussels summit on Thursday that he had the Chancellor’s full support and that she intended taking similar action.

But so far Berlin has issued no less than threedenials, including from Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who described Sarkozy’s claim as a “misunderstanding”.

Her spokesperson, Steffen Seibert earlier issued a statement on her behalf saying that she “never spoke of the so-called Roma camps in Germany, neither during the summit nor on the margins with the French president — and in no case would she have spoken of evacuations”.

Such action would be contrary to the German constitution, he said, and could only be undertaken by regional governments.

The issue is a controversial one in Germany as they plan to return about 14,000 refugees — mainly Roma — to Kosovo. They are not EU citizens so have no right to remain in the Union. The move has been criticised by UNICEF, which says most of the children to be deported have spent all their lives in Germany.

The Chancellor described a comment by EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding as “unfortunate” when she said of the French expulsions that it was a situation she had thought Europe would not have to witness again after WWII.

The Commission is investigating whether Francedeliberately targeted andexpelled the Roma EU citizens as a specific ethnic group, contravening anti-discrimination and freedom of movement laws.

France has been deporting Roma for some time but last month the drive was accelerated after police shot dead one of their people and some Roma ran amok.

Sarkozy accused them Roma of committing crimes and being involved in trafficking, prostitution and child exploitation. Camps all over the country have been demolished and about 8,000 have been given €300 each and flown back to Bulgaria and Romania.


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