Dozens of Roma people expelled as part of a crackdown on crime and illegal immigration by the French government have left France bound for Romania.
Hundreds more will follow in the next few weeks.
The plan was vastly accelerated after recent clashes in eastern and central France.
But critics fear it could further stigmatise members of the largely law-abiding ethnic minority, the largest in the EU.
“They are back now, they will go and visit their families and then they will return to France. There is no work here, people are very poor. I don’t understand why they have been expelled,” said Edu Adrian, President of the Roma Association in Bucharest.
French officials also want to amend current EU law to prevent the Roma returning.
But the government is facing widespread criticism.
The opposition has denounced what it says is a policy of “official racism”. There are also those who accuse President Nicolas Sarkozy of using the issue to boost his flagging poll ratings.