10:53 Mon 29 Oct 2007

France’s immigration minister Brice Hortefeux was trying to fulfil a pledge the government in Paris had made to repatriate 25 000 illegal immigrants by the end of 2007, the French news web site said, as quoted by Sega daily on October 29.

For the purpose, Hortefeux was intensely applying the so-called humanitarian repatriation (retour humanitaire in French) approach with regard to Bulgarians and Romanians especially, said.

The measure, which entered into force in December 2006, had been applied on several occasions. In all these cases, including the last one in the town of Bagnolet on October 24, police raided improvised villages of Roma people – Bulgarians or Romanians – ordered them to get into buses, hired for the purpose, and gave them to choose between to alternatives – go to prison or immediately leave France with financial aid from the authorities.

None of the immigrants had been allowed to pick up their belongings from the camps. This had made it impossible for some of the people to show their documents, which would allow them a longer stay in France. Police seized the passports of those who carried them in their pockets. The final step was to transport the arrested straight to Bulgaria or Romania.

Each of the "passangers" was handed a check to the amount of 153 euro for adults and 46 euro for children, as aid for the humanitarian repatriation.

These operations against illegal camps of Roma immigrants were a combination of brutality and a neglect of the human rights of the inhabitants, who were actually EU citizens and were therefore protected under the EU’s free movement of people legislation, said. If France was questioning their rights, the authorities should hand the immigrants a well-motivated order to leave the country’s territory. Since such an order handing would hamper the immediate expulsion of the foreigners, the humanitarian repatriation measure was applied. ... 9/catid_68