Europe

France condemns Castro Roma 'holocaust' remark

A group of Roma people arrive in Sofia airport after being expelled from France, 10 September
Image caption France expelled at least 14 Roma migrants to Bulgaria on Friday

France says comments by former Cuban leader Fidel Castro about its treatment of Roma migrants are unacceptable and show his ignorance of history.

Mr Castro accused Paris of carrying out a "racial holocaust" over its expulsion of members of the Roma community.

France has come under increasing international criticism after about 1,000 Roma were deported recently.

The European Parliament has urged the government to halt the deportations - a call rejected by Paris.

"The use of 'holocaust' by Mr Castro demonstrates his ignorance of history and disdain towards its victims," said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. "Such words are unacceptable."

In a clear reference to Cuba's treatment of dissidents, Mr Valero added: "That Fidel Castro shows an interest in human rights is truly revolutionary."

French irritation

Mr Castro, 84, made his controversial remark at an event in Havana to promote the second volume of his autobiography.

Image caption Mr Castro has been promoting his autobiography

"The last thing one would expect is the news of the expulsion of French gypsies, who are victims of the cruelty of the extreme right wing in France," he said.

Migrants were, he said, "victims of another kind of racial holocaust".

Fidel Castro's words have clearly angered the French government, the BBC's David Chazan reports from Paris.

It has been irritated by international condemnation of its treatment of the Roma and comparisons with the round-ups of Jews under the Nazi occupation.

It says it is scrupulously observing French laws and European regulations.

Since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, many Roma have come to France.

But the government has blamed them for a rise in crime and violence and says they cannot stay in France without jobs.

See full list of countries and Roma population figures [919.85KB]

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