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France's Roma in road blockade to protest gipsy raids

media A young girl from a Roma family eats an apple near a make-shift tent shelter … Reuters

More than 250 cars and caravans belonging to members of France’s Roma, or gispy, population on Sunday blocked a major highway outside the south-western city of Bordeaux in protest against the government’s raids on illegal Roma camps.

France has in recent weeks launched a major crackdown on the Roma, closing unauthorised camps and expelling individuals.

Sunday's blockade is the first major counter-protest by the groups, in which vehicles were used to block the Bordeaux bypass and a bridge, causing major disruption on a summer public holiday weekend.

Police said that earlier Sunday the Roma has been expelled from a camp in the town of Anglet, further south, and were prevented from moving on to an exhibition ground nearer Bordeaux.

A lawmaker from France's ruling UMP party denounced Saturday the government's raids on Roma camps as disgraceful, likening them to World War II round-ups.

Following the latest raid on Saturday in an eastern Paris suburb, Jean-Pierre Grand said the government's policy of dismantling illegal Roma camps "is turning disgraceful".

Police removed Saturday 70 Roma, including around 20 children, who had been occupying a building in Montreuil for two days.

Sixteen were arrested and then ordered to leave French territory.

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