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Deported Roma promise return to France

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Roma deported to Romania say they will return to France
  • 132 Roma are on Friday's flight, Romanian officials say
  • France offered $384 to each Roma adult who got on the flight
  • France put 79 Roma on a charter flight out of the country Thursday

Paris, France (CNN) -- Some of the Roma deported from France said Friday they plan to return as soon as possible.

They flew Thursday to Romania on a French flight, the first of several scheduled to take Roma out of France in the coming days.

The French government says the deportations are part of a crackdown on illegal immigration. They follow the government's dismantling in the past three weeks of 51 Roma camps that it called illegal.

Roma in Europe: Persecuted and misunderstood

"Over there, they were giving us food, money ... salary. Life is much better out there -- happier," Mariana Serban, a mother of four, told Romania's Realitatea TV.

She told the reporter she did not work in France, and smiled when the reporter pointed out France would not give them any more money.

"That's what they say now, but they will give us money again," Serban said.

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I am worried about the risks of populism and xenophobic reactions in a context of economic crisis.
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Serban's oldest son, Alexandru, 12, spoke in French as he told the TV station, "It's much better in France. I'm here now for a visit, and I will leave again. I'm staying here for two days only."

The Thursday flight carried 79 Roma out of the country, French officials said. Friday's flight, due to land in the Romanian city of Timisoara in the afternoon, had 132 Roma aboard, according to the office of Valentin Mocanu, Romania's secretary of state for Roma integration.

French officials earlier said the third flight would happen Saturday, but the Romanian Foreign Ministry said it would take place August 26 and carry 159 Roma. The ministry said there will also be two flights next month, carrying 27 Roma from France to Romania.

France offered 300 euros ($384) to each Roma adult and 100 euros ($128) to each Roma child who accepted the offer for a "voluntary return."

The comments by the returning Roma may dash any French hopes that they will resume their former lives in Romania.

"They will go and meet their parents and other relatives, and after that they will return to France, I'm telling you," Adrian Edu, an expert on Roma issues with the Bucharest City Hall, told PRO TV.

Roma are a group of people who live mainly in southern and eastern Europe, often in poverty. Commonly referred to as Gypsies, they tend to live in camps, caravans, or informal settlements and have been the target of persecution throughout history.

Romanian President Traian Basescu said in a statement Thursday that his country would try to find a solution to the French situation.

"We understand the problems Roma camps create around French cities, and we will work with France to find suitable solutions," he said.

Roma from Romania and Bulgaria are allowed free passage into France if they are European Union citizens. After that, however, they must find work, start studies, or find some other way of becoming established in France or risk deportation.

The French government said those Roma being deported this week have overstayed the three-month limit.

Two Romanian secretaries of state plan to be in Paris on August 30 to discuss the integration of Roma populations, the French Foreign Ministry said. It said Paris favors the social integration of the Roma in Romania.

Mocanu's office said local authorities try to integrate the returning Roma into the workforce, offering jobs to those who come back. Roma are not obligated to accept the job offers, however, and most of the time they don't, resulting in their return to the country from where they came, the office said.

CNN's Sarah Goddard in Paris, France, and Journalist Cosmin Stan in Bucharest, Romania, contributed to this report.