Roma teen detained during school outing in France

Oct. 17, 2013 at 3:00 PM
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PARIS, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- The arrest of a 15-year-old Roma girl on a school field trip so she could be deported from France has outraged many in the governing Socialist Party.

Leonarda Dibrani's detention last week became a national story when some of her teachers publicized it, France 24 reported. While Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the country will continue to be tough on illegal immigrants, he promised to investigate the way this case was handled, Radio France Internationale said.

The Dibrani family came to France from Kosovo in 2009. They lost an appeal earlier this year after being turned down for asylum in 2011.

The Roma or Romani, the people formerly known as gypsies, live throughout Europe, although their numbers are greatest in the east. The admission of much of the former Soviet bloc to the European Union has allowed many Roma to move freely to countries like France, although that does not apply to those from Kosovo.

Valls was criticized earlier this month for saying Roma do not want to be "integrated" into France.

Some Socialists appeared to agree with Valls that the problem was the circumstances of Leonarda's detention and not the goal of deporting her. Matthias Fekl, a member of the National Assembly, said France needs to be "firm about illegal immigration." But he called the arrest "absolutely appalling," saying children should not be detained in front of schoolmates and without their parents present.

Pouria Amarshahi, another member of the Assembly, called Leonarda's arrest "violence against the republic."

"Now is not the time to get carried away with a debate on immigration," Valls said. "We must keep calm, wait for the results of the inquiry and not doubt that the services linked with the ministry applied the rules of the republic with intelligence, discernment, humanity and firmness."

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