French minister hits back at "unfair" Roma criticism

Copy of French Interior Ministry circular
Image caption Interior Ministry circular calling for 300 camps or illegal settlements to be cleared within three months

France's minister for Europe has said he is "sick and tired" of the criticism directed at his country over the deportation of Roma (Gypsy) migrants.

Pierre Lellouche said France was being unfairly targeted, after more UN and EU officials condemned the policy.

Mr Lellouche's remarks come after the French press published a leaked memo suggesting the Roma were specifically targeted by the authorities.

About 1,000 Roma have been deported since last month.

The European Parliament has urged the government to halt the deportations - a call rejected by Paris.

On Monday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, released a statement saying the dismantling of Roma camps added to the stigmatisation of the Roma and the poverty in which they live.

In response to the fresh criticism, Mr Lellouche defended the policy, saying he believed the accusations were unfair.

"I am personally sick and tired of this kind of argument," he told the BBC's Oana Lungescu.

He asked that Ms Pillay "look at the issue and stop condemning the one country in Europe who has kept asking the EU to mobilise itself on this".

Image caption France expelled at least 14 Roma migrants to Bulgaria on Friday

'Not aware'

On Sunday, human rights groups accused France of discrimination after the media published a government memo on illegal immigrants which specifically mentions Roma camps as a "priority".

The order, dated 5 August, was sent from the Interior Ministry to regional police chiefs.

"Three hundred camps or illegal settlements must be cleared within three months, Roma camps are a priority," it said.

"It is therefore up to prefects in every part of the country to undertake... a systematic approach of dismantling illicit camps, as a priority those of the Roma," the circular says.

The memo contradicts French immigration minister Eric Besson's assurances to EU officials that immigrants were treated on a case-to-case basis.

Mr Besson told France 2 television on Monday that he was "not aware of this circular".

"It was not addressed to me and I did not need to know about it," he said.

Last week European MPs passed a resolution calling on France to suspend immediately its deportations of Roma.

Discrimination against any ethnic group or nationality is banned under EU law.

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