TIMISOARA, Romania (AP) - A group of some 100 Gypsies who had been living in makeshift tents in Ireland were voluntarily repatriated and escorted back to their home villages in western Romania, officials said Thursday.
The 99 Gypsies, including 36 children, arrived on a plane late Wednesday to the western city of Timisoara. They were escorted by more than 30 Irish police officers, local Romanian officials said.
The group had been living in makeshift tents near a highway in Ireland before Irish authorities offered to fund their trip home. Some Gypsies chose to remain in Ireland. Those who returned were taken to two villages in the Bihor county, near Romania's border with Hungary.
Baron Rostas, 40, who went to Ireland six weeks ago with his wife and two teenage children, said he decided to return after failing to find work in Ireland. None of the group had work permits. «I left Romania because I wasn't getting social welfare,» Rostas said. «We didn't go to Ireland to beg; we wanted to work. He said he would go to Ireland again, however, if he could not get social welfare in Romania.
Gypsies, also known as Roma, are routinely discriminated against when applying for jobs in Romania, and many live in abject poverty. There are officially some 500,000 Gypsies in Romania, but surveys put the actual figure at more than 1 million. Many do not declare themselves to be Gypsies due to widespread prejudice. Romania joined the European Union on Jan. 1, and Romanian citizens no longer require visas to travel to Ireland and other European Union countries.