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Jobs bid to ease gypsy problem

Government eases working restrictions but will continue to close squalid and illegal camps

PRIME Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has offered a carrot and stick to the 15,000 Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants living in illegal and ramshackle camps: he eased access to the job market but added that illegal gypsy camps would still be dismantled and expulsions would continue.

He said that the government would move towards a transitory arrangement to allow the people (called Roms or Romanian and Bulgarian gypsies) to find work as France - and seven other countries - had refused them full working rights after their countries joined the European Union in 2007.

They will have access to more jobs and trades and it will lift bureaucratic obstacles, meaning there will be no need for employers to pay a €300 "tax" to the French immigration office for each new start.

France will open up a list of 150 jobs where employers find it hard to get workers. These include building trades, hotel staff, farming and fishing, some industry work and maintenance jobs. Some jobs in IT, banking and finance will also be included.

However, the 300 or 400 illegal and squalid camps across the country will continue to be targeted for closure and expulsions once court orders have been granted. Ayrault said: “Court decisions have to be applied but it is my duty to find strong, clear and humane solutions.”

He added that prefects would be told to prepare for closures by looking at individual solutions for the people in the camps, whether the possibility of work or lodgings elsewhere. He would also call on the Romanian and Bulgarian governments to look after their own countrymen.

The moves were seen as support for Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who continued the Sarkozy policy of expulsions and camp closures, saying he was protecting local residents. Ayrault said it was "unacceptable" that there should be large squatter camps round the edge of many large cities.

A recent Ifop poll for Atlantico website found that 80% of French people approved of dismantling the camps - including backing from 71% of Socialist supporters.
Photo: Manuel

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