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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Romania tackles beggar traffic
Beggar sitting on pavement
Several countries have deported Romanian beggars
Romanian border police have barred a minibus-full of people from leaving the country to beg professionally in Italy, in what they say is a growing trend.

Map of the region
The group of 19 people was stopped on Monday night on the Hungarian border, four days after three men were arrested in the south of the country on charges of trafficking in beggars.

According to police, the three men recruited disabled people and transported them to France, where they collected about 150 euros in a day on the streets.

Eight of those stopped on Monday night were children between the ages of five months and 14 years, and three of them had disabilities, according to the Mediafax news agency.

Deportations

The agency said border police were stopping groups of people attempting to leave the country to work or beg in Western Europe on an almost daily basis.

Roma on streets of London
Roma groups say gipsies are being unfairly targeted
Some were subsequently deported back to Romania by countries including France, the UK, Finland, Italy and Spain, it added.

This group had started its journey in Timisoara, and was travelling in a Mercedes minibus.

The suspected traffickers arrested on Thursday are alleged to have taken the money collected by the beggars and provided dismal living conditions in return.

According to the Associated Press news agency, Romanian authorities expect France to deport 200 Romanians in the coming weeks.

'Fake' disabilities

Earlier this month, France arrested 10 Romanian gipsies for begging in one week.

The Roma Party, which represents gipsies in the Romanian parliament, has protested that France is unfairly targeting gipsies and violating their right to freedom of movement by deporting them.

French authorities are reported to have alleged that some beggars have merely pretended to suffer from disabilities to gain the sympathy of the French public.

See also:

11 Oct 01 | Europe
13 Mar 00 | UK
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