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Paris school pupils protest at Roma girl's expulsion

Photo: @LeilaAjig (Twitter)

Students in Paris blocked the entrance to several of the city’s schools on Thursday in protest at the deportation of foreign pupils following the controversial expulsion of 15-year-old Leonarda Dibrani earlier this month.


High school students blocked the entrance to numerous schools in Paris and several other French cities on Thursday in protest at the deportation of foreign pupils, sparked by 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 9th and deported to Kosovo along with her parents and five siblings - a case that has triggered an angry backlash and landed France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls in hot water.

Critics have lashed out at the “inhumane” way the teenager was treated, pointing to the fact she was forced to get off a bus full of classmates in the midst of a school outing.

On Thursday, students blocked the entrance to several schools in the French capital, protesting in front of the gates, and disrupted the smooth-running of other establishments.

According to the French capital’s local education authority, 14 schools in Paris were “disrupted” by the protests.

However, the high school student union the UNL said that protests were in fact being held at more than 30 schools in Paris and its suburbs, with a central demonstration involving pupils and teachers taking place at the city’s Place de la Nation.

Photos and comments on social media sites suggested protests were also taking place outside schools in other cities and towns around France.

Steven Nassiri, spokesman of the FIDL, another high school union, told AFP the students were protesting to demand the return of foreign pupils who had been thrown out of France.

“Everyone has the right to an education,” he said.

Investigation launched

The furor over Dibrani’s deportation has heaped further pressure on Interior Minister 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 readmitted to France if the probe found that police had broken rules by arresting her on school property.

Photo posted on Instagram by a high school student in Grenobles
© @tmt_sfz (Instagram)

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, wanted to return to France and felt lost in Kosovo.

Apart from Dibrani, the eviction of another student has emerged. Khatchik Kachatryan, 19, a student in the Camille-Jenatzy school in Paris, was deported on Saturday to Armenia.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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