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Socialist fury at Roma expulsion

Interior minister attacked after 15-year-old girl is removed from school bus to be sent back to Kosovo

INTERIOR Minister Manuel Valls has come under direct attack from fellow ministers and other leading socialists after the expulsion of a Kosovo Roma family which saw one of the daughters removed from a school bus.

Pupils at 14 schools in Paris also protested by blocking the entrance to the buildings.

The Dibrini family of eight had failed to win asylum after arriving illegally nearly five years ago and were staying in a hostel in Levier in the Doubs, eastern France. They have been under threat of expulsion since February and her father was expelled a week ago, with the rest of the family due to be flown out to Kosovo the next day.

On the day, however, 15-year-old Leonarda Dibrini had stayed overnight at a friend’s house so she could go on a school trip from Pontarlier.

Her teacher told journalists that she had taken a phone call from the mayor of Levier and then the border police saying that they wanted Leonarda and, after arguing with them, agreed to stop the bus so Leonarda could be taken away.

The Doubs prefecture said in a statement that Leonarda’s mother had called her daughter to tell her to return as they were due to leave. The mayor had then called the teacher to tell her what was happening. Officials maintained that no police entered the bus and Leonarda left the bus calmly and waited for border officials to arrive.

Aides in Mr Valls’ office said that such situations were always “particularly difficult” but no police officer entered the bus or was seen by other pupils.

Valls, who is France's favourite politician, called for “calm” and insisted that “rules, based on the law, are applied by my services with intelligence, discretion and humanity. We have to carry out these deportations.”

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault ordered an inquiry and said that, if there were any mistakes, made then Leonarda would be allowed to return to France.

Other leading members of the government also criticised the expulsion, with Claude Bartolone, the speaker of the National Assembly, tweeting: "There is the law but there are also values on which the Left must never compromise."

Education Minister Vincent Peillon said they had to “retain our principles based on rights and humanity" and added that school should be a “sanctuary”.

Leonarda said in an interview from Mitrovica that she wanted to return so that she could continue her schooling. “I don’t even understand the language here,” she said.

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