Protesters disrupt French schools over expulsions

18th October 2013, Comments 0 comments

Some 50 schools in Paris and the rest of France were being disrupted on Friday as students continued protests sparked by the deportation of foreign pupils.

The protests began on Thursday after the high-profile deportation of a 15-year-old Roma girl, Leonarda Dibrani, and the expulsion of another 19-year-old student to Armenia on Saturday.

Amid rising anger, sources in President Francois Hollande's government said it would make a statement about Dibrani at the weekend, after an investigation into how her expulsion was handled.

The Socialist government has raised the possibility of changing policy so that currently enrolled students cannot be expulsed from France.

Much of the anger has focused on how Dibrani was forced to get off a bus full of classmates in the midst of a school outing before she was deported with the rest of her family to Kosovo.

At least 23 schools in the Paris region were taking part in the protest, with many classes empty and the entrances to some schools blocked.

Steven Nassiri, the head of the Fidl students' union, said protests were taking place at about 50 schools across the country.

Protesters were demanding that Dibrani and the other expelled student, Khatchik Kachatryan, be allowed to return to France to continue their studies.

At the Lycee Charlemagne secondary school in Paris's Marais district, rubbish bins were piled up in front of the entrance and a banner had been unfurled reading: "Charlemagne is mobilising for Leonarda and Khatchik".

"These are students just like us. They must absolutely be allowed to return to France," said one of the protesters, Heloise Hakimi.

"We are creating a movement that is growing in France to demand their return," she said.

Education Minister Vincent Peillon has urged the students to return to classes and stop preventing other pupils from attending school.

An afternoon march was planned for later Friday, with several prominent left-wing figures expected to attend.

Some of the protesters have also called for the resignation of Manuel Valls, the controversial interior minister who has defended the expulsion and sparked anger last month by saying Roma migrants could not integrate into French society.

Dibrani was deported after being detained on October 9 in the eastern town of Levier, though her case only came to light Wednesday when a non-governmental organisation highlighted the incident.

Her family was deported after all of their formal requests for asylum were rejected.

The case has been complicated by revelations that Dibrani's father Reshat had lied about his family's Kosovo origins to have a better chance to obtain asylum.

In an interview with AFP on Thursday, Reshat Dibrani, 47, said only he had been born in Kosovo and that his wife and five of his six children, including Leonarda, were born in Italy.

Reports have also emerged of allegations by several people who had contact with the family in France that he had at one stage beaten his daughters.

© 2013 AFP

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