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Switzerland expels Roma gypsies

More than 400 Roma have arrived in Switzerland over the past two months

(Keystone)

A group of 40 Roma gypsies has been flown to the Romanian capital, Bucharest, after their requests for asylum were rejected by the Swiss authorities.

The party left Geneva airport on a specially-chartered plane on Thursday morning. Each family received SFr500 ($340) from the Federal Refugee Office.

Shortly after the 19 men, 15 women and six children landed in Bucharest's Baneasa airport, Romania's Interior Minister said he was considering taking action against the illegal immigrants.

He told reporters that each family would be considered individually, but that in some cases the immigrants could face prosecution for illegally crossing Romania's borders.

"We are also considering confiscating passports for five years from those people who have spent more time in western Europe than is allowed if you are a Romanian citizen," he added.

Roma influx

More than 400 Roma gypsies have arrived in Switzerland in separate groups over the past two months - mostly in canton Vaud.

They reportedly paid €100 per person, or €500 (SFr730) for a family to be smuggled into Switzerland.

Dominique Boillat, spokesman for the Federal Refugee Office, told swissinfo that the Romas cited economic reasons for seeking asylum in Switzerland.

"They say they can't find work [at home] or people are mean to them [and call them names]," he told swissinfo, "but this is not releveant to an asylum claim."

"We know there are difficulties for the Roma people [in Romania] such as access to jobs or for the children to go to school," Boillat added, "but this is not a reason for asylum in Switzerland."

Trafficking network

Where the gypsies were smuggled from remains a mystery, but the authorities suspect they came from Austria, Italy and France.

"We have an idea that these people probably came from France rather than directly from Romania," added Boillat.

"They say they come from Romania, but we have some information from the police that says they were in France."

Since arriving in Switzerland, most have been housed in federal asylum-processing centres, but 90 were transferred to an underground military bunker in canton Glarus in central Switzerland on Tuesday.

The Swiss authorities are in no doubt that the dramatic influx comes as a direct result of French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy's decision to adopt a tougher stance on Romanian gypsies.

A new Austrian law, which bars some asylum seekers from staying in government shelters, may also be to blame.

Romania is home to some 540,000 Gypsies, who use the name Roma for their community. Human rights groups say they are often unemployed because of prejudice and discrimination.

swissinfo with agencies

Roma gypsies

Forty Roma were flown to Romania on Thursday.
More than 400 gypsies have been dumped in Switzerland in the past two months.
The influx is being blamed on tougher asylum measures in neighbouring France and Austria.

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