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Protests In Paris Over Immigrant Expulsions

  • RFE/RL

Thousands of French students have blockaded entrances to their schools and marched through Paris and other cities to protest the expulsions of two illegal immigrant students.

The protests came following the deportation to Kosovo of a 15-year-old girl after she was detained in front of her classmates during a field trip.

The government said Leonarda Dibrani's family had been denied asylum and was no longer allowed to stay in France.

The Paris education authority said that a total of 20 schools in Paris were "disrupted" as students protested the eviction of both Dibrani and Khatchik Kachatrian, a 19-year-old Paris student who was deported on to Armenia on October 13.

"We feel concerned by what happened to the young Armenian and Kosovar, who were expelled this week," David, a Paris student, said. "We are really outraged by what happened. We find it shameful and we support them whole-heartedly."

Leonarda Dibrani, 15, smiles as she walks in the town of Mitrovica on October 17, following her deportation from France.

Leonarda Dibrani, 15, smiles as she walks in the town of Mitrovica on October 17, following her deportation from France.

The Dibranis -- ethnic Roma from Kosovo -- entered France illegally in 2009 and exhausted their legal appeals against expulsion.

Kachatrian, 19, had been attending a technical school in northern Paris for two weeks when he was arrested last month on charges of theft and sent back to Armenia last week alone. He and his family had been living in France since 2011.

Such expulsions occur regularly in France as the government tries to limit illegal immigration.

The students say the expulsions are unfair to children and want the government to allow the Dilbranis and Kachatrian to return to France.

Several students clashed with police, who fired tear gas, but most marched peacefully in the capital. Some of them climbed on bus shelters, calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Valls was born in Barcelona and only became a French citizen when he was 20.

He has taken a tough stance on Romany migration, saying recently that most of the 20,000 Roma in France have no intention of integrating and should be sent back to their countries of origin.

Valls enjoys wide popularity among the public. Nevertheless, he came under attack from within his own Socialist Party for what some members see as a right-wing approach to immigration that contradicts the values of the left.

President Francois Hollande has so far avoided commenting on the controversy.

But Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, speaking to parliament on October 16, promised the Dibrani family could return to France if the girl's rights were found to have been infringed.

"If a mistake has been made, the warrant for expulsion from the country will be canceled," Ayrault said. "This family will come back and its situation will be examined and reexamined, according to our rights, our principles, and our values."

The protests also spread to other parts of the country. In the southern town of Mende, around 100 youths demonstrated.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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