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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Switzerland to expel Roma migrants
Romanian asylum seekers in France
A French crackdown led migrants to other EU countries
The federal authorities in Switzerland say they have rejected the asylum applications of dozens of Roma - or gypsy - migrants from Romania who have arrived in the country since last month.


We want to send a clear signal

Brigitte Hauser
Federal Refugee Office
The expulsion of the first of more than 400 asylum seekers will begin by the end of the week.

Switzerland wants to send a strong message, said Brigitte Hauser, spokeswoman for the Federal Refugee Office said.

Hundreds of Roma asylum seekers arrived from France almost immediately after Paris and Bucharest agreed to tighten migration procedures in the summer.

Romania is considered a safe country, Ms Hauser said, although she understood the reasons that pushed the gypsies to seek a better life abroad.

People who are suffering genuine political persecution will still be welcomed in Switzerland, she said.

The group, which includes 16 children, will be flown to the Romanian capital Bucharest on a chartered plane, Ms Hauser said.

Mountain bunker

Most have been temporarily lodged in refugee reception centres, but a group of 92 was transferred on Tuesday to a mountain bunker in central Switzerland.

Romania, with a population of nearly 24 million people, is officially home to 540,000 gypsies.

But that is commonly considered underreported with the true figure estimated at more than 1 million.

In Romania and elsewhere, they are often unemployed because of prejudice and discrimination, human rights groups say.


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