Hundreds of Roma expelled from France arrive in Romania
Nearly 300 Roma packed by France on two chartered planes and expelled to Romania arrived in Bucharest Thursday, as part of the French government's campaign to dismantle unauthorised camps.
Carrying heavy bags, the Roma men, women and children disembarked at Bucharest's Aurel Vlaicu airport, some of them covering their faces in order not to be recognized.
"For three months I could find no job, so I decided to come back to Romania," Ion Stancu, 52, told AFP.
"But, my God, what will I do for a living now, with eight grandsons to feed," he added, tears in his eyes.
"The police told us we could choose between leaving now, on our own accord, or be expelled by force later," said a young man, who would not be identified.
"So we agreed to leave" with the 300 euros per adult and 100 per child offered by the French authorities as an incentive.
But Iulian Stoian of the Roma Civic Alliance said "sending back groups of people allegedly on a voluntary basis is a violation of European legislation."
"The money they give in exchange is more like a bribe aimed at convincing people to leave," he told AFP, stressing "this has been going on for years, although it is illegal."
The deportations come after President Nicolas Sarkozy, citing concerns about crime, began a high-profile crackdown on Roma, Gypsies and travelling people that saw police rounding up foreign Roma and tearing down illegal camps.
The 284 Roma sent back to Bucharest Thursday bring the total number of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma deported so far this year to 8,313, against 7,875 expelled throughout last year.
The crackdown has sparked fierce criticism at home and abroad.
The Vatican said "one cannot generalise and take an entire group of people and kick them out," while a UN panel warned of mounting racism and xenophobia in France.
The European Union said it was reviewing whether the crackdown was legal.
© 2010 AFP