Sarko has been sending Roma back to (mostly) Romania, which the silly comic the Independent has belatedly noticed, as follows:
France has urged European leaders to force Romania to stem the flow of Roma gypsies leaving the country, suggesting that they could block Romania's entry to the Schengen border-free zone if the government in Bucharest fails to do so.
Raising the stakes as Romanian officials arrived in Paris for talks, President Nicolas Sarkozy's government defended its recent repatriation of hundreds of Roma people and said the Roma emigration from Romania had become a European problem.
The French Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, has written to Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, asking him to take steps to ensure that €4bn in European Union funds given to Romania each year is used to settle the Roma. The Romanian government, for its part, has questioned whether the repatriations comply with European law. A spokesman for the European Commission said it would issue a report on the legality of the expulsions next week.
Since announcing plans last month to demolish hundreds of illegal Roma camps in a crackdown on crime, France's centre-right government has repatriated more than 600 gypsies, mostly to Romania.
Critics of Mr Sarkozy have denounced the move as a ploy to boost his flagging popularity before elections in 2012, and to divert attention from his unpopular plans to raise the retirement age and cut public spending.
Except that this is not quite the whole story. The city of Bordeaux has, as a result of this move by Sarko, made available a very large area of fields on its outskirts for several thousand travelling people and their caravans ("gens de voyage"), who are overwhelmingly people who were born and have always lived in France - travelling people tend to migrate in continental Europe, but between France, Spain and Portugal, avoiding Germany and Austria for linguistic not political reasons. The people Bordeaux is accommodating are not Romanian citizens. If Romania has, and there is some evidence that it has, been expelling people on the basis of their ethnicity as Rom, then Sarko and other European leaders should be berating them for it, and should indeed be keeping them out of Schengen unless they stop it at once. The Indy article fails to mention that a great many of those expelled (and as just about all are EU citizens they will be back, having taken the air ticket and the 100 euros each) are from Bulgaria, and the the government of Bulgaria, which does not I believe have a particularly proud record on its own treatment of Roma people,has gone on record as saying it has "no problem" with the Sarko policy. I just thought I would shed a little light on this. An interview in the "Telerama" cultural mag this week with a person named "Esmeralda" who is a campaigner for the rights of "gens de voyage", and who describes herself as "Manouche" (a word I had never heard before coming to France, it means "gypsy" but without any ethnic connotation, most French people know the word in connection with a certain kind of music and with influences on jazz) points out that in France there has nearly always and nearly everywhere been peaceful coexistence between travelling and settled people, and that most "gens de voyage" including Esmeralda herself, live settled lives. There was of course, which she does not mention, a fairly brief and inglorious period in French history when an occupying force, invited in, had an altogether different point of view on gypsy people, but that is another story.
Where Sarko is of course wrong is in using the existence of illegal encampments and trespass as a reason to expel non-French people on the basis of their ethnicity. This is wrong, disgraceful and racist. There are perfectly good sanctions available against trespass and illegal occupation of land. I did not think any politician since former MP Mr Martin Salter - who called for the expulsion of travellers from the Reading area on the basis of their ethnicity - would do this, but I was wrong. If you look at the link to His Master's Voice quoting Mr Salter, you will see that the story is in fact racist itself, congratulations Mr Murrill.
The Parti Socialiste is starting its "universite d'ete" ("summer university", the equivalent of party conference) today, until Sunday, and will have something to say about all this. A nation awaits you...