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The Roma Forum, which has ties to the 47-member Council of Europe, condemned the evictions, saying they contradict “President [Francois] Hollande’s commitment from his election campaign to not expel Roma families without proposing alternative accommodation.”

It’s not clear whether France consulted any Roma before moving in on the camps.

Human Rights Watch said 240 Romanian Gypsies evicted from camps around Lyon in southern France left two weeks ago on a charter flight to Romania after accepting $370 for a “voluntary return.”

EU citizens, Holocaust survivors

The French government has offered no hard numbers on how many Roma camps have come down, nor how many Roma have been evicted.

The government does not refer to the ethnic group by name, citing only “illicit encampments.” Each Gypsy camp houses a couple of dozen to hundreds of people, depending on the ancestral network.

At Gennevilliers, none of the Roma had much of an idea where they would sleep the night their camps came down.

“The boys are out looking for land to sleep on tonight,” said 24-year-old Senti, the first of his family to finish high school. “Tomorrow morning, the bulldozers are coming to finish things off.”

According to Human Rights Watch, the estimated number of Eastern European Roma in France has remained steady for several years, at about 15,000, despite the expulsions.

As EU citizens, Roma have the right to travel to France, but they must get papers to work or live here in the long term, all but impossible even in the best economic times.

Few Roma speak more than a few words of French; most harbor a deep mistrust of legal authorities born of generations of discrimination.

They come mostly to harvest crops or beg from tourists. They pay no taxes. The state offers them no medical care, education or basic services.

Discrimination against Roma goes back hundreds of years, culminating in the Nazi Holocaust that saw up to 25 percent of their population killed in concentration camps, according to the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

“Almost every family here is the family of a Holocaust survivor,” said Michelle Kelso, a Roma specialist at George Washington University who translated interviews at Gypsy camps around Paris for the Associated Press. “Their grandparents were deported to camps in World War II.”

Gypsies such as Senti and his younger sister Venetia, who attended school until forced into marriage at age 17, once hoped to be a beacon of change for Gypsies.

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