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French school students march for second day

The Local/AFP · 18 Oct 2013, 17:45

Published: 18 Oct 2013 17:45 GMT+02:00

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School protest latest:

  • Family of deported girl Leonarda vow to return to France
  • Interior Minister Manuel Valls cuts a short foreign trip to return to Paris
  • Paris deputy mayor Anne Hidalgo demands return of Roma school girl Leonarda
  • Over 20 schools in the capital hit by pupil blockades
  • Education minister calls for pupils to return to the classrooms
  • French government will publish findings of inquiry into how Roma girl Leonarda was deported later on Friday
  • Government has raised the possibility of changing policy so that currently enrolled students cannot be expelled from France.

High school students across France staged a walk -out for a second day on Friday in protest at the deportation of foreign students after the high-profile eviction of a 15-year-old Roma girl Leonarda Dibrani.

In Paris, organisers said 12,000 students marched in protest, some clashing with riot police. Police said 4,000 students took part.

Student groups said at least 170 high schools across the country were disrupted or forced to close. Entrances to about 45 schools in the Paris region were at least partially blocked, police said.

Meanwhile the father of a 15-year-old Roma girl whose detention during a school trip and subsequent deportation to Kosovo has shaken France, vowed on Friday to take his family back to their adopted country, illegally if necessary.

"If the (French) authorities do not let me return to France legally, I will go through the forests," 47-year-old Resat Dibrani told AFP.

From just before 8am this morning high schools across the capital were blockaded as students held aloft banners and placards with slogans demanding the end of "expulsions".

"We are rebelling against the policies of the Interior Minister Manuel Valls," Antoine, a 17-year-old protester told The Local on Friday. "We are demanding that he must resign and Leonarda and Khatchik (an expelled Armenian schoolboy) are reintegrated into France. 

"We need a new law that prevents any deportation of minors, who are integrated in France."

Steven Nassiri, president of FIDL, France's high school union, said 20 lycées in the capital were affected by blockades and a total of around 50 across the country.

Education minister Vincent Peillon has calledfor students to go back to return to the classrooms.

In an interview with Direct Matin the minister said he “understands that young people should act to defend their values” but he asked them to find other ways to express themselves.”

But pupils ignored the minister's plea as they plan to descend on Place de la Bastille at 1pm on Friday from where they will march to Place de la Nation. Their numbers were set to be swelled by teachers, university  students as well as politicians from far-left parties.

French police were out in force from early on Friday determined to prevent any trouble on a day that marks the last day before the mid-term holidays.

IN PICTURES: French high school students take to streets

As the row over the expulsion of Leonarda rumbled on, France's under fire Interior Minister Manuel Valls decided to cut short an official trip abroad and return to Paris to deal with the fallout.

The clamour for Leonards to be returned to France continued on Friday with Paris mayoral candidate Anne Hidalgo calling for her to be allowed to return along with Armenian schoolboy Khatchik Khachatrian, who was also deported recently.

The French government has said it will publish the findings of a report into how Leonarda was taken from her school trip and deported along with her family, later on Friday evening.

(High school students blockade the entrance to the Lycée Voltaire in the city's 11th arrondissement of Friday. Photo: The Local)

"Friday's protests come a day after several thousand students marched through the streets of the French capital, after having blocked the entrance to several schools and disrupted the smooth running of other establishments.

Police put the total number of young protesters on Thursday at 2,500, while the FIDL high school union said there were around 7,000.

Story continues below…

Steven Nassiri, spokesman of the FIDL high school union, told AFP the students were protesting to demand the return of foreign pupils who had been thrown out of France. "Everyone has the right to an education," he said.

Teachers unions and the main federation of parents have given their backing to the protests with Bernadette Groison, secretary general of the FSU union demanding in a letter to the prime minister that “that no expulsions occur before pupils obtain their diploma.”

But a headteachers union has condemned the action.

In an interview with Monde de l’Education Philippe Tournier secretary general of the SNPDEN union said: “Blockading schools is a bad habit in our country. We stand against organisations who decide without democratic debate, to interrupt the operation of a public service.”

How a Roma girl became a 'symbol' of protests across France

Stay with us for updates on the protests throughout Friday.

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

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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