More than 100 Gypsies, or Roma, were put on a charter flight to their native Romania on Friday, the second day in a row that France has expelled Roma in a much-criticized government crackdown.
Associated Press Television News saw at least 100 Gypsy men, women and children arrive by bus at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport Friday. After checking in at the charter flight terminal, they were transported by bus to a waiting plane.
The plane landed in Timisoara, in western Romania, late Friday afternoon with 124 Roma aboard. But it was far from clear that expelling the Roma would be effective in keeping them out of France.
"I was there four months with my wife, and if I can't get by here in Romania I will go back," said Aurel Cioaba, a Roma man told The Associated Press after arriving.
President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the crackdown on Roma in late July as part of a larger "war" on delinquency. It is being increasingly criticized as discriminatory because it singles out a particular community — even though France boasts of its long-standing policy of being officially colorblind — that is, not differentiating between ethnic groups.
"We're moving toward an official racism," Socialist lawmaker Arnaud Montebourg charged on French TV.
Daniel Vasile, of the Partida Romilor, a party in Romania representing the Roma, has called the expulsions a "black stain on .... the history of France, but also of Romania," where Roma, a minority there, too, are particularly vulnerable.
France can repatriate Roma, even though they come from EU-member states Romania and Bulgaria, if they are unable to prove they can support themselves.
French authorities have said the majority are returning on a voluntary basis, given small sums of money — euro300 ($386) for each adult and euro100 for children — to help them re-establish themselves at home.
"We won't resolve the basic problems of the Roma, the problems of poverty and discrimination with these expulsions. The solution in the short-term is education and to get qualifications in various professions. If they don't find jobs in Romania many will return to France or to Western Europe," said David Marc, president of non-governmental group the Civic Alliance of Roma from Romania.
It is an open secret that many quickly make their way back to France after pocketing the cash.
Since Sarkozy's announcement July 28 of a crackdown, police have dismantled dozens of illegally installed Gypsy camps, checked the situations of each inhabitant and prepared to whisk them to their Romanian homeland.
Nearly 100 Gypsies were sent to Romania on two flights Thursday. Similar flights were expected later this month and into September.