Roma people France
There are some 20,000 Roma people in France, which is thought to have the harshest policy in Europe towards Roma immigrants.Getty Images

A French bus driver has proposed putting on a separate service for Roma passengers, claiming the "unbearable" smell is a health risk to everyone on board.

Dominique Granier, from the local Force Ouvrière (FO) union, sparked outrage after he suggested putting on replacement service on the number 9 route specifically for people travelling from a Roma encampment next to a cemetery into the centre of Montpellier, southern France.

But while his comments were immediately met with horror by some, the bus company TAM has taken his comments seriously and is said to have "outsourced" part of the route.

Bernard Gotis from the Confédération générale du Travail (CGT) union, which opposed to the proposal, told French newspaper Libération that the city's transport authority backed the plan.

"The management has decided to follow the union by removing part of this bus line that is very popular with Roma people and to outsource this part of the line.

"It's a disgrace. Yes, there is a bad smell when Roma people are on the bus and we have pointed it out for two years but it's not their fault," Gotis said.

Montpellier bus driver wants to ban Roma
A French union claims that the smell on route 9 in Montpellier is 'unbearable' because of the Roma using the service. The union wants separate buses for the RomaTwitter: Joseph Willits

"It's because we've abandoned them so much that they don't have a tap in their camp. They're not animals. We shouldn't attack poor people but poverty. It only shifts the problem. We don't want to recreate apartheid in Montpellier."

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) said FO's proposal was discriminatory towards the Roma community.

"France is bound under European Union law to prohibit race discrimination in relation to all services, including public transport," the organisation said in a statement.

"It seems very difficult to imagine how having a special bus for Roma could amount to anything other than unlawful discrimination. It stigmatises the Roma in ways that European anti-discrimination law was designed to prevent."

France deports thousands of Roma every year

There is an estimated 20,000 Roma people living in France, which is is thought to have some of the harshest anti-Roma policies in Europe.

The country often tears downs their camps and deports thousands of Roma people every year. ERRC said that some 19,000 Roma people were evicted from France in 2013 alone.

In January, a French mayor sparked controversy after allegedly refusing to bury the child of a Roma couple who had died on Boxing Day. Champlan Mayor Christian Leclerc was quoted by the Le Parisien newspaper as saying that priority for burial should be given to people "who pay local taxes". He later said his comments was misinterpreted.

In 2013, the founder of France's far right National Front (FN) party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was fined after he made controversial anti-Roma remarks. He was ordered to pay a fine of €5,000 (£4,100, $5,300) after he suggested that stealing was in the Roma's nature.