France sends nearly 100 Gypsies back to Romania
PARIS — France expelled nearly 100 Gypsies, or Roma, to their native Romania yesterday as part of a very public effort by conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy to dismantle Roma camps and sweep them out of the country, the Immigration Ministry said.
France chartered a flight to Bucharest, which left from the southeastern city of Lyon with 79 Roma aboard, Immigration Ministry officials said. However, Romanian border police official Cristian Ene, at Bucharest’s Aurel Vlaicu airport, said only 61 people were aboard. The French Immigration Ministry was unable to explain the discrepancy.
Fourteen other people were repatriated to Romania aboard a commercial flight from the Paris region earlier in the day, the French officials said, adding that another Romania-bound repatriation flight was expected today. Additional flights were scheduled for later this month and September, Romania’s Foreign Ministry said.
Those repatriated yesterday left on a voluntary basis and were given small sums of money — $386 for each adult and $128 for children — to help them get back on their feet in their home country, a standard French practice, officials said.
Roma advocates countered the repatriations were hardly voluntary, claiming that those who refused the deal would end up in holding centers and eventually be sent home without funds.
Alexandre Le Cleve, a spokesman for Rom Europe, said the expulsions were pointless because nothing prevented those sent back from returning to France, as many have done in the past.