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French pupils protest over schoolmate deportations

Thousands of French pupils have boycotted class in Paris and marched on the Interior Ministry to protest recent deportations of schoolmates. A hard-line policy targeting Roma has attracted widespread criticism.

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French students protest deportations

Pupils at numerous Paris high schools have demanded that authorities bring back to France two classmates who were deported with their families after losing applications for asylum or residency.

Paris' local education authority said some 20 schools were "disrupted" on Thursday as pupils protested the recent deportations of Leonarda Dibrani, 15, to Kosovo and Khatchik Kachatryan, 19, to Armenia.

In the southern town of Mende, 100 pupils also demonstrated under the slogan "Leonarda isn't going to class, nor are we."

Probe into eviction

The Socialist government's Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who recently called on most of France's 20,000 Roma to leave, has agreed to a probe into how Dibrani's eviction was handled.

The Roma girl, who had been living in France for nearly five years, was taken off a school bus and arrested - on the grounds that she had illegally entered the country in 2009 - while on a trip with her class in the eastern Franche-Comte region. She was deported with her mother and five siblings on October 9.

Dibrani told the Associated Press news agency from the northern Kosovar city of Mitrovica that she wanted to return to France.

"My home is France," Dibrani said. "I don't speak the language here and I don't know anyone. I just want to go back to France and forget everything that happened."

Heated issue

Khatchik Kachatryan had attended a technical high school for two weeks last month when he was arrested on charges of theft. He was sent back to Armenia last week, alone, despite protests from schoolmates in Paris.

Valls' stance has drawn condemnation from other members of the ruling Socialist party for what they see as right-wing immigration policies. Some conservative opposition lawmakers have backed the deportations.

Remarks last month by EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding that French politicians were using the Roma as a diversionary tactic ahead of European elections next year drew a mixed response in the French media.

ipj/rc (AFP, dpa, AP)

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