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Romania, EU Concerned About Gypsy Deportations From France

Romania has expressed concern about the deportations of Gypsies, or Roma, from France, saying it could lead to "xenophobic reactions". Friday's statement came as French authorities put some 100 Roma, on a charter flight headed to their native Romania after expelling scores of others on Thursday.

As hundreds of deported Roma, were expected to arrive in Romania from France on Friday and the coming days, Romanian President Traian Basescu expressed concern about the situation.

In a statement, he said Romania "understands the position of the French government." But Mr. Basescu stressed Romania also supports "unconditionally the right of every Romanian citizen to travel without restrictions within the European Union" as his country is an EU member state.

These concerns are shared by the EU's executive body, the European Commission said spokesman Matthew Newman.

"We are obviously, very concerned about any form of discrimination, our policies is always to promote full integration of the Roma population in Europe. Let me just remind that Roma people are just like any Europeans people, they are full European citizens, they have the right to free movement anywhere in the EU," said Newman. "...These are the rights that they have and they need to be respected. And all member states need ensure that these rights are respected."

The Vatican, rights groups and the Council of Europe have also criticized the massive expulsions of Roma. Authorities in France say the deportations are part of an effort by conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy to dismantle what they call "illegal" Roma camps.

They have pledged to give each adult $386 and each child $128 to help them get back on their feet in their home country, if they leave without resistance.

With no signs of France backing down, Romanian President Basescu has offered to send police to help in the careful repatriation of Roma, who have been described as among Europe's most discriminated and impoverished people.

Talking to reporters, expelled Roma expressed concerns about their future in Romania.

One man explained that he studied for 10 years and has a diploma. Yet, he claimed, he will only earn 250 euro, about $317 (U.S.) per month.

Roma are also expected to be expelled to Bulgaria.

Although Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, the French government says Roma should show work permits and prove they can support themselves if they stay in France for more than 90 days.