Human rights activists have called for economic action against France for its continued Roma (Gypsy) expulsions in the face of widespread international criticism.
US Jewish leader Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich and Hindu statesman Rajan Zed are among those calling for sanctions against a policy they believe is both racist and an affront to human dignity.
In a joint statement, the two men said it was incomprehensible that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was stubbornly pursuing mass Roma expulsions while European Union bodies were slow to respond.
France, which expelled around 10,000 Roma last year, has dismantled 117 Roma settlements and expelled 635 Roma during the past few weeks. It has announced an intention to demolish 300 such camps in total.
"It appears that European Union has a two-tier citizenship policy. If you belong to the 'upper' tier, then you can travel freely anywhere in borderless Europe, but if you fall in 'Roma' tier, your travel is severely restricted," said Rajan Zed and Rabbi Freirich.
Collective deportations were blatant discrimination and smelled of xenophobia, racism, and intolerance, they continued, bitterly criticising the "military-style" bulldozing of Roma settlements.
One of Europe’s most discriminated-against communities, Roma regularly encounter social exclusion, racism, substandard education, hostility, joblessness, rampant illness, inadequate housing, lower life expectancy, unrest, marginalisation, stereotyping, mistrust, human rights violations and appalling living conditions, Zed and Freirich declared.