France Expels More Roma To Bucharest

Paris: France expelled more Roma on Thursday, putting them on two flights to Romania, despite mounting criticism of the crackdown. At Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, dozens of Roma, including children and babies, were escorted by police onto a flight to Romania. The country's Mediafax news agency said a total of 284 Roma arrived from France on Thursday. President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative government has linked the Roma minority to crime and is dismantling their illegal squatters' camps and putting many of them on flights back to their homes in eastern Europe.The policy has attracted widespread criticism from those who say it amounts to racism toward one of the European Union's most impoverished minorities, and that Sarkozy is playing to the far right before the 2012 presidential election. France's minister for European Affairs on Thursday met two top Romanian officials in charge of security and Roma issues to discuss the crackdown. Human rights groups say the policy is absurd because many Roma simply return to France. Romania and Bulgaria are members of the European Union, and their citizens can enter France without a visa, but they must get work permits to work in France or residency permits to settle long-term. "The principle of free movement of people, which is fundamental in the European Union, cannot be used by any EU member as a way to onpass the problem of the management of its citizens to another country," Pierre Lellouche, the French Minister for European Affairs, said. The European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding spoke out on the issue on Thursday, saying some of the rhetoric used has been discriminatory and partly inflammatory. She said EU governments must ensure both public order and "the social integration of all Europeans" living within their borders and added that she intends to brief the European Commission on the matter. Lellouche said he has had no complaints.