France repatriates hundreds of Roma amid criticism

08:25, August 27, 2010      

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A Roma family arrives back home together with about 300 other Roma on planes departing from Paris and Lyon, in the latest wave of what French President Nicholas Sarkozy's government calls a voluntary repatriation scheme, Bucharest, August 26, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

France Thursday repatriated 283 more illegal Roma migrants despite widening criticism of President Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign to crack down on illegal migration.

A Blue Airline flight flew 158 Roma to Bucharest from the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris in the afternoon, while 125 more were repatriated from Lyon.

French and Romanian officials met Wednesday to establish concrete measures to facilitate Roma's integration into their native country and France.

Sarkozy ordered the closure of illegal camps of Roma, also known as gypsies, and deportation of their residents following violent protests by Roma in central France in July, sparked by an incident in which the police killed a 22-year-old man.

More than 50 illegal Roma camps have been dismantled in the past two weeks and 700 dwellers are expected to be returned to Bulgaria and Romania this month.

Some 48 percent of French back the government's campaign to dismantle the camps and expel Roma migrants, according to an opinion poll by the CSA agency.

The rate of delinquency by Romanians jumped 138 percent in France last year, according to figures presented by French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux.

However, Sarkozy's tough campaign against illegal traveling communities sparked a fresh deluge of criticism from the right, the left, the Catholic Church and a U.N. anti-racism panel, who accuse the president of creating a civil war and fueling racism.

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