They are members of the EU’s biggest ethnic minority. And now, France’s crackdown on the Roma community has been flagged up by the United Nations.
Repatriations have surged in recent weeks due to what Paris is calling a voluntary repatriation programme.
But critics say President Nicolas Sarkozy is using the issue to boost his domestic popularity.
The UN urged France to focus on integration and not repatriation.
“What we feel is needed is a European solution. There is domestic legislation, there is EU policy that comes into play. We ask France to take them into consideration as it conducts its efforts as described,” said Pierre-Richard Prosper from the UN’s anti-racism committee.
In Italy, a three-year-old boy has died in a fire at a Roma camp near the capital.
His three-month-old brother is in a critical condition in hospital with severe burns.
The family had lived there for a month after travelling down from a city in the North.
Many Roma moved West from Romania and Bulgaria following the enlargement of the EU – creating social tensions in some states.