France - Kosovo

France's Socialists fall out after 15-year-old Roma girl grabbed from school bus

France's ruling Socialist Party has been plunged into a public row over the deportation of a 15-year-old Roma girl to Kosovo. Interior Minister Manuel Valls has ordered an inquiry into a case that saw the girl ordered off a bus during a school outing so as to be kicked out of France along with her mother.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls Reuters/Charles Platiau

The incident happened last week but a statement published by the school's teachers, who declared themselves "deeply shocked", on Tuesday brought it to wider attention.

Several Socialist bigwigs, meeting at the party's executive on Tuesday, described the action as "despicable" and party spokesperson David Assouline called it "unacceptable".

Socialist parliamentary group leader Bruno Le Roux declared that police should not "go and get children from school".

"We must be firm about illegal immigration, but never under any circumstances must a child be detained alone, without her family, in front of her classmates, Matthias Fekl told RFI. "It's absolutely appalling. The official who gave the order must be punished, because there are no grounds for detaining a child in this manner."

Another MP, Pouria Amarshahi, described the detention as "violence against the republic".

Left party leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon slammed the interior minister's "inhuman policy".

"It's alll very well for Valls to pronounce that the Roma don't want to be integrated, which he hunts them down in school," he said in a statement.

Valls scores well in opinion polls but aroused criticism on the left earlier this month with a claim that most Roma do not want to integrate in French life.

He defended the deportation but has ordered a review of how the case was handled.

"Now is not the time to get carried away with a debate on immigration," he said. "We must keep calm, wait for the results of the inquiry and not doubt that the services linked with the ministery applied the rules of the republic with intelligence, discernment, humanity and firmness."

Leonarda's family entered France without authorisation in 2009 and was refused asylum in 2011.

An appeal against the ruling was definitively turned down in February this year and a deporation order issued, leading to her father being detained while in the Alsace town of Colmar at the beginning of September.

According to a statement by the teachers of the school published on French website Mediapart on Wednesday, the girl, Leonarda Dibrani, was detained at the beginning of a field trip in the morning of Wednesday, 9 October.

Her class was going to visit secondary schools and a Peugeot factory in the department of Doubs, on France's border with Switzerland.

One of the teachers received a phone call ordering the bus to stop in a parking lot, where police were waiting to take Leonarda.

The girl was then sent with her five siblings and mother to the airport in Lyon and deported to Kosovo.

Her father had already been deported and her mother had received a deportation order, following an unsuccesful request for refugee status, but was determined to see her children educated in France.

In two months they would have been in France for five years, the moment at which they could have requested legal residency papers.

Teachers say the children, the youngest of whom was born in France, all spoke perfect French and performed well in school.

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