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Paris students intensify protests over deportations

Rachel Holman

Thousands of high school students in Paris took to the streets for a second consecutive day on Friday to protest against the deportation of foreign pupils following the controversial expulsion of 15-year-old Leonarda Dibrani earlier this month.


High school students took to the streets of Paris in their thousands on Friday during a second consecutive day of protests against the deportation of foreign pupils, following the controversial expulsion of a 15-year-old Roma girl earlier this month.

Leonarda Dibrani was detained by police during a school trip on October 9 and deported to Kosovo along with her parents and five siblings – a case that has triggered widespread outrage and landed France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls in hot water. Critics have lashed out at the “inhumane” way Dibrani was treated.

Days later another student, 19-year-old Khatchik Kachatryan, was also deported, but this time to Armenia. He was enrolled at Camille-Jenatzy, a professional high school in northern Paris.

Taking to the streets to express their anger at the deportations, protesting students gathered at the Place de la Bastille in the French capital at around 13:00 (11:00 GMT) on Friday to begin a march to the Place de la Nation, about 2km east, amid tight security.

The protests had began the day before, when students obstructed the entrances to several schools in Paris, protesting in front of the gates.

According to the local education authority, 14 schools in Paris were “disrupted” by Thursday's protests. The high school student union UNL, however, said that demonstrations had in fact been held at more than 30 schools in the capital and its suburbs.

‘Every child has the right to an education’

Several hundred students and adults also took part in a march that wound its way through the city from the eastern Place de la Nation. A small group of teenagers banged on drums while the crowd called for Valls to resign and shouted “Free Khatchik!”

“We’re here first of all because of Leonarda and Khatchik,” Laure Anderson, who is in her last year of high school, told FRANCE 24. “But we’re also here to express our disappointment in a leftist government that should be acting like a leftist government.”

François Fourn, a history and geography teacher at a central Parisian high school, said he had come to the demonstration to chaperone his students.

“My high school students wanted to protest against the deportations of their peers, so I came with them,” Fourn said.

“I am shocked that we are deporting students,” he added. “Every child has the right to an education, no matter their nationality, religion or background. Without exception. It’s unacceptable.”

Investigation launched

The furore over Dibrani’s deportation has heaped pressure on Valls, who some Socialist lawmakers have accused of betraying the left’s values with tough immigration policies that led to the girl’s arrest.

Valls has stepped up rhetoric against Roma migrants living in illegal camps in French cities as support for the far-right anti-immigration National Front has surged in opinion polls ahead of municipal and European elections next year.

On Wednesday, an investigation was launched into the legality of the deportation of the schoolgirl and her family.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told parliament that Dibrani, now back in Kosovo with her family, would be allowed to return to France if the probe found that police had broken rules by arresting her on school property.

The police have said they were carrying out orders after the family’s application for political asylum was turned down on grounds of “insufficient prospect of social and economic integration” in France.

Dibrani, meanwhile, told French media this week that she felt ashamed at being detained in front of her schoolmates. She also said that she felt lost in Kosovo, and wanted to return to France.

In pictures: Paris students protest against deportations
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(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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