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French crack down on gypsy travelers

Illegal immigrant workers asking for their regulation gather in the Place de la Republique in Paris after leaving this morning a empty building they occupied since July 2009.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The state of Arizona's been ground zero lately in the illegal immigration debate in this country. In Europe, France is where immigration is heated these days. The government there is expelling gypsies, or Roma travelers -- rounded up as part of a summer clampdown on illegal camps.

From Paris, the BBC's Christian Fraser reports.


CHRISTIAN FRASER: The French government says it intends to clear 300 illegal camps in the next three months -- and the first of the return flights will leave for Romania today.

The Roma are a transient population, many of them are travelers from Romania and Bulgaria. They come to France looking for jobs, but the government isn't willing to provide any assistance, so most of them end up living in squatter camps around the country. And despite being EU citizens, they are required under French law to have a valid work permit to remain.

Dana lives in one of camps in Lyon, but didn't want to give her last name.

DANA: My rights are not respected by the state. It is racist that they ask for a French identity card when we look for work, but when you are from the European Union they don't ask for a French ID card.

Immigration is a hot political issue in France, too -- one critical member of the ruling party compared the tactics to those used by Nazi Germany. Critics say most of those returned will most likely come back to France within several months.

In Paris, I'm the BBC's Christian Fraser for Marketplace.

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