• France's news in English

France deports Roma pupil during school trip

Ben McPartland · 16 Oct 2013, 09:34

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

French claims that Jungle camp is empty are rubbished
Photo: AFP

Reports from the scene say scores of migrants are still in the area of the Jungle despite French authorities claiming "mission fulfilled."

Kidnapped Riviera millionaire left tied up in car boot in Nice
Photo: AFP

Head of luxury Cannes hotel has been found alive after being kidnapped in Nice on Monday.

Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Photo: Panoramas/Flickr

... and it's tenants in the smaller apartments that get hit the hardest. Could you be paying too much?

France takes baby steps to make life simpler
Photo: AFP

... including extending the ridiculously short time limit for registering a new baby.

IN PICTURES: Calais Jungle camp goes up in flames
All Photos: AFP

Migrants leave behind a scorched camp as they are moved to locations across France.

French expats in UK suffer Brexit abuse
French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

French nationals no longer feel at home in the UK, ambassador says. But Brits in France have been greeted with sympathy since the referendum.

Six to go on trial in France over topless Kate photos
Photo: AFP

The topless pics sparked fury among the royals.

France sees biggest drop in jobless rate for 20 years
Photo: AFP

Good news at last. But it's unlikely to keep President François Hollande in his job.

Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available