France's Roma crackdown criticized

The archbishop of Paris added his voice to the criticism of France's crackdown on Roma, calling the forced deportation of the ethnic minority a "circus."

The archbishop of Paris added his voice to the criticism of France's crackdown on Roma, calling the forced deportation of the ethnic minority a "circus."

Also on Thursday, EU's justice commissioner denounced French officials' discriminatory tone toward the gypsy communities that have set up squatters' camps in the country.

France brushed off the criticism and put nearly 300 Roma on two flights to their native 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, including prostitution and child exploitation, and is dismantling their illegal camps and sending many back to the East European countries from where they arrived.

The policy has attracted widespread criticism from those who say it amounts to racism toward one of the European Union's most impoverished and vulnerable minorities.

Critics say the deportation is Sarkozy's attempt to curry favour with the far right ahead of the 2012 presidential election to boost his poor approval ratings.