Bulgarian Roma protest outside French embassy (Roundup)
Sep 18, 2010, 14:14 GMT
Sofia - About 200 members of Bulgaria's Roma minority demonstrated outside the French embassy on Saturday against the expulsion of Roma migrants by France.
A dozen Roma organizations and human rights groups called the protest, which came after the Bulgarian government defended France's actions.
The protesters handed over a letter, calling on President Nicolas Sarkozy 'to halt the expulsion of citizens of other EU states on the basis of their ethnic origin.'
The protesters chanted 'Europe is on our side,' and displayed banners reading 'Europe is not just for those who are chosen.'
Earlier, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov said France was legally justified in sending the Roma back home.
'The right of freedom of movement does not automatically guarantee the right to settle down,' Mladenov told Bulgarian radio, adding those who returned home did so voluntarily.
France is repatriating the Roma on the grounds that they cannot support themselves after spending more than three months in the country.
Since the beginning of the year, France has deported more than 8,300 Romanians and Bulgarians, most if not all of them Roma, or Gypsies.
At the heart of the now Europe-wide debate on this issue is a circular, issued on August 5 by the French interior ministry, that exhorted prefects to dismantle at least half of the 600 illegal camps throughout the country, 'in priority those of the Roma.'