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The French have Lost the Plot

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The Roma are gypsies, we all know that. We know that many Roma cause problems, but not all.

Does this look like a gypsy family to you?

Leonarda and her family posed for a picture on the stairs to their home – Photo: BBC News

I see a relatively normal happy family, well cared for and fed.

Yet the French government see ROMA! in big red letters and that is all, they have thrown away any semblance of humanity and expelled the family from France after their application for refugee status was denied.

areject

Row over Kosovo Roma expulsion grips France

AFP visited Leonarda in a house in Mitrovica

France’s government is embroiled in a row over the repatriation of a Kosovo Roma schoolgirl, who was removed from her school bus.

The 15-year-old, Leonarda Dibrani, was expelled along with her parents and five siblings after they lost their battle for asylum in France.

When the order was enacted, she was on a school field trip and was removed in view of the other children.

Leonarda told French radio she was being denied education in Kosovo.

She said she wanted to return to France to finish school.

The government is conducting an inquiry into how the case was handled.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told parliament that if a mistake had been made, the family could return to France to have its situation reassessed in respect of French “laws, practices and values”.

His Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, defended the expulsion. Last month he declared Roma people incompatible with the French way of life.

Mr Valls is voted France’s favourite politician in opinion polls but he has been strongly criticised by human rights campaigners and figures within his own party for his strident comments.

Critics accuse President Francois Hollande’s administration of following the hard line on the Roma taken by his conservative predecessor as president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The new row has deepened the rift within the ruling left on how to tackle the issue, the BBC’s Christian Fraser reports from Paris.

‘Pupils shocked’

The Dibrani family left Kosovo for France five years ago and were living in Levier, in the Doubs region of eastern France. They cited discrimination in Kosovo as grounds for asylum.

An order for their expulsion was issued after they lost their battle for asylum. After two postponements, it was rescheduled for this month and the father, who was detained in a different town, was expelled on 8 October.

A blog posted by the French news website Mediapart describes in detail what happened next.

Arriving at the family’s home on 9 October, border police found that Leonarda was on the field trip – she had stayed the night at a schoolfriend’s house in order not to miss the bus – and they contacted one of the teachers on the bus, through the school.

The indignant teacher, Mrs Giacoma, argued with the police over the phone before finally stopping the bus and getting off with Leonarda, when police took her into custody.

“My colleagues then explained the situation to some of the pupils, who thought Leonarda had stolen something or committed an offence,” she was quoted as saying by Mediapart.

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Opinion:

Come on France, there are ways and ways. The callous treatment of this family by French authorities is a blight on humanity.

The girl wants an education… criminal offence.

It’s not as though she was a gypsy living in a ramshackle encampment.

 

Romania

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Vlad III

For me Romania is a land that I would dearly love to visit.

Of course, I first heard about the country as a school boy with a keen interest in geography. Then later through Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Which, I might add, is not a popular book in Romania because the character of Dracula was based on Vlad Tepes, an important character in Romania’s history.

But Romania seems to suffer a bad reputation.

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Why has Romania got such a bad public image?

The Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta has defended his country after a wave of negative reporting about it in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. Why does it have a bad public image?

Of course, it had to be Romania.

You could almost sense the relief for some when, in the midst of the horsemeat scandal, the finger of blame was pointed at abattoirs in an eastern European state.

Now it made sense. Cue stock footage of Gypsy horse and carts and knowing references to organised crime.

Except, of course, there is no evidence that any horsemeat left Romania labelled as anything other than horsemeat.

But slurs about horsemeat are just the latest in a long line of public relations problems to have hit Romania.

Students and young professionals from Romania talk about living and working in the UK – and whether they plan to return home

The country’s Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, has this week been forced to launch an all-out charm offensive over fears about a flood of immigrants when the EU opens its labour market to his country, and neighbouring Bulgaria, on 1 January 2014.

Headlines such as “The Mafia bosses who can’t wait to flood Britain with beggars”, “We want to get into your country before someone locks the door” and “An immigration calamity looms” have incensed Romanians living in the UK.

On Friday, the country’s ambassador to London, Ion Jinga, claimed such “alarmist” and “inflammatory” coverage could lead to Romanians being assaulted in the street.

He argues that all the Romanians who want to work in the UK are already there, on work permits or self-employed.

In an article in the Times, the Romanian prime minister strikes a more emollient tone, inviting Britons to come and enjoy a “strong pint” in Bucharest’s Old Town or a “quiet holiday” in the sleepy Transylvanian villages beloved by Prince Charles.

Improved job rates in Romania mean that “Britain can rest assured”, he writes.

This argument cuts little ice with Migration Watch chairman, former diplomat Sir Andrew Green, who says the presence of a settled Romanian population in the UK is a “pull factor” that will encourage more to make the journey.

The press has seized on a report by Migration Watch claiming 50,000 Romanians a year will travel to the UK when working restrictions are lifted.

Migration Watch’s chairman cites events from 2004, when the government grossly under-estimated the number of migrants that would travel from new EU states such as Poland. The government said there would be net immigration of between 5,000 and 13,000 a year. In fact, 2011 Census data showed the Polish population alone had risen in England and Wales from 58,000 in 2001 to 579,000 10 years later.

Romania has been trying to reshape its image for some time. The government has launched a number of advertising and PR campaigns in recent years aimed at improving the country’s perception abroad.

In 2011, it launched a global “Why I Love Romania” poster campaign, trumpeting the achievements of famous Romanians such as tennis player Ilie Nastase, gymnast Nadia Comanenci and scientist Nicolae Paulescu, who discovered insulin.

Last year, it launched a campaign to attract more tourists to the Carpathian Mountains, which was much mocked in the Romanian press.

Did stories about horsemeat play up to prejudices about Romania?

And a Romanian ad agency, GMP, has produced tongue-in-cheek ads hitting back at, so far unfounded, claims that the UK is considering a campaign to deter Romanians from coming to the UK.

The proposed Why Don’t You Come Over? campaign in Romania features slogans such as “We speak better English than anywhere you’ve been in France” and “Charles bought a house here in 2005. And Harry has never been photographed naked once.”

Map of Romania

The campaign slogan is: “We may not like Britain, but you will love Romania.”

Ronnie Smith, a British business consultant based in Romania, says the UK “ought to be ashamed” of its coverage of Romania but he does not believe the country’s government has the resources, or the will, to respond effectively.

“There is not a rebranding campaign. There should be but there won’t be, not to the extent that’s needed,” he says.

Romania’s image problem may even be traceable to the late 19th Century, when travellers returned from Transylvania with tales of a strange, forbidding land, says Dr James Koranyi, a history lecturer at Durham University.

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