70 repatriated Roma arrive in Romania from France

13:55, August 20, 2010      

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Romanian Roma people coming from France are pictured as they arrive at the Baneasa airport in Bucharest August 19, 2010. (Xinhua/AFP)

Only 70 of those 93 Roma to be repatriated Thursday from France finally arrived in Bucharest, local media reported.

They are the first two batches of some 400 Romanians of Roma ethnicity to be repatriated from France after Paris launched a tough campaign to close illegal camps of Roma and restore security.

As many as 61 Roma came back from Lyon, eastern France, with Romanian-owned low-cost airline Blue Air. Seventy-nine Roma should have taken the flight as announced initially.

Meanwhile, nine others returned in Bucharest from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, five less than the original arrangement.

According to Romania's Foreign Ministry, another flight will bring on Friday 132 more Romanians from Paris to Timisoara, western Romania. More Romanians of Roma ethnicity who chose the French government's voluntary repatriation scheme will arrive in Bucharest on Aug. 26 (160), on Sept. 2 (16) and on Sept. 16 (11).

French President Nicolas Sarkozy last month launched a campaign against crime following two violent riots in central and southern France.

Sarkozy ordered the evacuation of illegal camps of Roma, known as Gypsies, and to send them home.

More than 40 Roma camps have been dismantled in the past two weeks and 700 residents of the camps will be returned to Bulgaria and Romania, said earlier French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux.

The Bucharest authorities clearly expressed opposition to this practice. Romanian Chamber of Deputies Speaker Roberta Anastase said Thursday that Frence's approach is not the right one and Roma issue can not be really solved by repatriation. In her opinion, the Roma's problem is not Romanian or French, but European, starting from the prerequisite that this community in itself is nomad, moving from place to place, and it cannot be kept within one single territory.

Romanian President Traian Basescu stressed at the same day that his country unreservedly supports the right of all Romanian citizens to move freely across the EU.

International critics have also denounced Sarkozy's security policy, saying it would aggravate racism and harm the country's values of freedom, equality and fraternity.

According to the Romanian Interior Ministry, over 1,600 Romanian citizens were repatriated to Romania in the first half of 2010, mainly for illegal migration, beggary and theft. France, Italy and Belgium sent back to Romania the largest number of Romanian citizens.

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