• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

France deports Roma pupil during school trip

Ben McPartland · 16 Oct 2013, 09:34

Published: 16 Oct 2013 09:34 GMT+02:00

Just as the latest furore surrounding France and its treatment of the Roma community appeared to have died down, more controversy was sparked this week when a schoolgirl was pulled off a bus during a school trip and expelled back to Kosovo.

Along with her family, Leonarda, 15, who was studying at a school in Doubs, eastern France and her family were due to be deported from France on October 9th. But when French police arrived at the family home on that day, the young girl was not there.

The girl, who the French media describe as Roma, was actually on a bus with her classmates for a school trip. Officers decided not to wait until she had returned and decided to pull the girl off the trip.

'I asked her to say goodbye to her friends...She started to cry'

Her teacher, named as Madame Giacoma, told investigative website Mediapart that she received a call from the mayor of nearby Levier, ordering her to stop the bus "immediately."

"At first I refused...but he passed me on to a border police agent...whose language was more firm and direct, and he told me we had no choice but to stop the bus, so they could pick up a pupil who was in an irregular [immigration] situation," said the teacher.

Giacoma repeatedly resisted the demands of officials, which she called "inhumane," before finally giving in. "I asked Leonarda to say goodbye to her friends, and I exited the bus with her...I explained the situation to her, and she started to cry a lot," she added.

"I held her in my arms to comfort her. I told her she would be facing some difficult moments, but that she had to have courage. Then a police car arrived."

Leonarda was sent back to Kosovo along with her five brothers and sisters and parents. She spoke to France Info radio on Wednesday from Kosovo, pleading to be allowed to return to France.

"All I want is to start back at school again, so I can have a future," she said.


Leonarda, after her deportation to Kosovo. Photo: Armend Nimani/AFP

'Scandalous and unjustifiable'

The incident has made headlines across France and angered many in the ruling Socialist party, whose spokesman described it as “shocking”.

”Being taken off a bus by police in front of all her classmates is unbearable and unacceptable,” said David Assouline, a spokesman for the Socialist Party.

“The circumstances that led local authorities to take this decision must be clearly established,” he added.

Socialist MP Pouria Amirshahi also expressed his “dismay” and demanded the “immediate return of Leonarda and her family to France”.

And other socialists took to Twitter to express their anger. "The arrest of Leonarda is scandalous and unjustifiable. The prefecture must be summoned and punished," said Paris MP Sandrine Mazetier.

'Laws were applied with intelligence, insight and humanity'

Once again France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who caused outrage last month when he accused the Roma of not wanting to integrate in France, was forced to put his head above the parapet to defend the actions the French police.

Story continues below…

In a response to the uproar Valls ordered an official investigation into the incident on Thursday and he tried to calm the controversy around the incident by calling for "everyone to keep their cool".  

"Do not doubt for a moment that the laws are applied with intelligence, insight and humanity," he said.

On Tuesday the minister defended the “strict application of deportation decisions while ensuring the strict compliance with the rights of immigrants, who are subject to expulsion orders" but on Thursday he ordered an investigation into the incident.

Giving his version of the incident Valls said: “A member of the family support group called the girl on her cell phone. It was agreed between the family, the representative from the Support Committee, the teacher in charge of the trip and the police to allow the girl to rejoin her family as they were deported."

“The girl got off the bus to wait for the officials who came to take her away,” Valls added.

Don't miss a story about France - Join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Opinion - French schools
Ten ways France must fix its 'failing' school system
What must France do to fix its school system? Photo: AFP

As pupils head back to the classroom this week, Peter Gumbel, a Paris-based British journalist and author of a best-selling critique of the French school system, spells out for The Local how France must fix a national education system in crisis.

16 things you almost certainly didn't know about France
One of the most famous roundabouts in the land of roundabouts. Photo: Amy Anderson/Flickr

Here are 16 facts from the brand new trivia book "F is for France". Did you know any of them? Be honest now.

Burqini row
Bretons bathe fully clothed as Muslim asked to leave beach
Photo: Screen shot/Ouest France

Protesters in Brittany take to the sea fully clothed after video emerges of a veil-wearing Muslim woman being asked to leave the beach in Nice, despite France's top court ruling burqini-bans are illegal.

American businessman to take over French club Marseille
Photo: AFP

The former owner of Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team is set to become the new owner of troubled French football club Marseille.

Why expats are still happy about life in France
Photo: Dennis Jarvis/FLickr

Despite the fear over the heightened risk of terror attacks, expats are still very much content with the quality of life in France, a new survey has shown. Although there are drawbacks as well as positives.

Calais camp 'to pass 10,000' as UK warned over border
Photos: AFP

The camp's population has more than doubled since June, police say, as French politicians again call for the border deal with the UK to be torn up.

Parisians ignore 1923 ban to take the plunge in waterway
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: See Parisians take to the biggest swimming pool in the city.

Paris restaurant owner tells Muslim women to leave
Photo: AFP

Then says sorry after provoking outrage.

British man dies in France after trying to swim Channel
Photo Kondol/ Flickr

A British man's attempt to swim to France ended in tragedy.

French anti-burqini law would create 'irreparable tension'
Photo: AFP

A law banning the controversial burqini swim wear in France would be "unconstitutional" the French interior minister has warned and would create "irreparable tension".

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Education
French schools to ramp up security with 'mock attacks'
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Features
Where to go in France to find the best ice cream
National
Majority in France against burqinis on beaches
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Society
Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
Society
Five tips for surviving an internship in France
Politics
Déja vu? Familiar faces in France's presidential race
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Meet the man paying off burqini fines in France
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Eight tips on buying wine in a French supermarket
Society
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
National
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
2,753
jobs available