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Gypsies in France to be deported to Romania

Gypsies, or Roma, will be deported by France to their native Romania as part of an effort by President Sarkozy to dismantle Roma camps and sweep them out of the country.

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Two Romanian Gypsies sleep on a bed at a school gymnasium in Choisy le Roi, 7 miles east of Paris, on Aug. 18. France's immigration minister Eric Besson says the government isn't going after Gypsies despite almost daily raids by police to dismantle illegal camps.

Michel Euler/AP

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France was deporting nearly 100 Gypsies, or Roma, to their native Romania on Thursday as part of a very public effort by conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy to dismantle Roma camps and sweep them out of the country.

France chartered a flight to Bucharest, which was to leave later Thursday from the central city of Lyon with 73 Roma aboard, Immigration Ministry officials said. Fourteen others were repatriated to Romania aboard a commercial flight from the Paris region earlier in the day, the officials said, adding that another Romania-bound repatriation flight was expected on Friday.

Most of those repatriated were given small sums of money — from €100 to €300 ($386.40) — to help them get back on their feet in their home country, a standard French practice, officials said.

Foreign-born Gypsies are often seen begging on the streets of France's cities, often with small children or puppies, and many French people consider them a nuisance, or worse.

Sarkozy has linked Roma to crime, calling their camps sources of trafficking, exploitation of children and prostitution. On July 28, he pledged that illegal Gypsy camps would be "systematically evacuated." Several dozen camps have been evacuated since then.

Sarkozy's crackdown on Gypsies came on the heels of much-publicized riots by French Roma, who attacked a police station in the center of the country after the death of Gypsy youth there. The measures are also part of a raft of new hard-line security measures by Sarkozy, who came to power in 2007 on a tough-on-crime platform.

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