PARIS – The archbishop of Paris joined the tide of criticism over France's crackdown on Gypsies, calling it a "circus," while the EU's justice commissioner on Thursday denounced French officials' discriminatory tone about the vulnerable minority.
France brushed off the criticism and put nearly 300 Gypsies, or Roma, on two flights to their home country of Romania on Thursday. A poll showed the French are divided about the tactic, though slightly more favor it than oppose it.
President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative government has linked the Roma minority to crime, from prostitution to child exploitation, and is dismantling their illegal squatters' camps and sending many back to Eastern Europe.
The policy has attracted widespread criticism from those who say it amounts to racism toward one of the European Union's most impoverished minorities, and that Sarkozy is playing to the far right before the 2012 presidential election to boost his poor approval ratings.
Amnesty International said it is concerned French comments linking Roma to crime may "lead to even further discrimination" against them. It added: "No one should be returned or expelled simply because they are Roma."