EU Official Compares French Gypsies Expulsion to Nazis

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Even the Catholic Church condemned the expulsions. A few weeks ago, the Pope Benedict XVI criticized the decision of France to repatriate Roma and called upon acceptance of people of all origins and nationalities.

"What we are seeing today is nothing new," Charles told ABC News. "Except that this time, there is a public relations campaign surrounding these expulsions. For years, the Roma community has been the target of French authorities when it comes to expulsions."

"The Roma community is visible, clustered and unwanted," Charles said.

The French government defended its actions on Tuesday, saying they were legitimate and necessary in the face of rising crime. Speaking before France's National Assembly, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said, "We do not evacuate ... illegal camps because they are Roma's. We dismantle them because they are illegal."

French Deny Targeting Gypsies for Expulsion

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero expressed "astonishment" at the declarations of the EU commissioner. "We don't think, with this type of statement, that we can improve the situation of the Roma, who are at the heart of our concerns and our action," Valero told reporters. "It's not time for polemics. ... It's time for work in favor of the Roma population."

But French claims of wanting to help the Roma were undercut when the press published a leaked memo suggesting the Roma were specifically targeted by the authorities.

The leaked circular letter from the Interior Ministry caused embarrassment among the French government, especially since it contradicted a statement issued a few days earlier by the French Immigration minister that France is not stigmatizing the Roma community.

"France has taken no specific measure regarding the Roma", Eric Besson said in the statement. Hortefeux backpedalled and issued a new circular letter about dismantling illegal camps. In the new version, no mention of the Roma appears.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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