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News

France expels first Roma under Hollande

Continuing a practice that had been criticized when Nicolas Sarkozy was president, France has dismantled two camps of Roma in Lille. It's the first raid on a camp since Francois Hollande took office in May.

Thursday's camp raids came as 240 Roma - sometimes called gypsies - were deported from Lyon back to Romania.

In Lille, police descended on the camps in the early morning hours Thursday, clearing one camp of around 150 people and another of 50.

"The tensions with (local residents) had become untenable," said Maryvonne Girard, deputy mayor of the town of Villeneuve d'Ascq, near where one of the camps had been located.

Some human rights groups were critical of the fresh crackdowns on the Roma, hoping that things would change under Hollande.

Rosaline Tiset of the Human Rights League was quoted by AFP as saying "what's inconceivable for us is that people are thrown out without being told where they can go." She said that Hollande had promised Roma rights groups that when "an unsanitary camp is dismantled, alternatives will be offered."

Hollande's interior minister, Manuel Valls, said the camps had become a health issue and that he would take a "firm" line on the issue.

"Unsanitary camps are unacceptable," he said in a statement on Wednesday. "Often located in the midst of working class neighbourhoods, they are also a challenge to community life."

mz/msh (Reuters, AFP)