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France

A majority of the French back Valls on Roma comments

media A Roma family in Lille. Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

According to a poll out on Saturday, nine out of ten French people consider Roma people to be poorly integrated into French society. This, after last week’s inflammatory remarks by Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who said the Roma way of life was incongruous with French society.

The opinion poll conducted by BVA showed that, out of 1,064 French people ages 18 and up, 93 percent felt that Roma people integrated “quite poorly” into French life, while only five percent said they had integrated “rather well.”

The margin of opinion between left and right-wing voters was slim, with 98 percent of right wingers and 84 percent of left-wing voters sharing the majority point of view.

But Valls’s remarks continued to create controversy on Saturday. European Deputy Daniel Cohn-Bendit condemned the comments as “dangerous and idiotic,” adding that Valls had “racialised” the Roma issue and reinforced extremism.

Valls also got criticism from Bulgaria’s head of diplomacy, Kristian Viguenin, who said on Saturday that the Interior Minister’s comments towards Bulgaria’s Roma population were “absurd.”

“To talk about deportation is really going too far,” said Viguenin.

On Tuesday, Valls said that Roma people should be driven to the borders and should return home to Romania and Bulgaria.

Viguenin, interviewed in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting, said the number of Roma from Bulgaria was a minority. Experts from Bulgaria estimate that there are around 700,000 Roma from Bulgaria, and most live in Spain and Italy.

The French government has maintained a hardline stance on Romania and Bulgaria’s entry into the Schengen group, which would allow freedom of movement. It worries that an increased number of Roma would flood France, squeezing its resources.

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