France Begins Sending Roma Home

The French government has begun a controversial crackdown on Roma communities, sending more than 90 Gypsies back to Romania on Thursday as part of an effort to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in France.

Immigration officials said 14 Roma were the first to leave France when they were sent home aboard a commercial flight from Paris. The second batch of Gypsies is scheduled to leave France via a chartered plane later Thursday. Officials said 79 Roma will take the chartered flight from the city of Lyon back to their home country.

Roma adults who agree to leave France voluntarily will receive around $384 from the government while children will be given nearly $130 each. The deportation comes several weeks after the French government dismantled more than 50 Roma settlements that officials say were illegally established. Officials said the crackdown covers only those Roma who have failed to find work and establish a stable income within a government-imposed three-month limit.

Gypsies from Romania and neighboring Bulgaria are allowed to enter France as long as they can show that they are EU citizens. However, they can be sent back to their home countries if they fail to meet government requirements, which include steady work and income and schooling for children.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.