Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Expulsions Cause Furor in France ; the Cases of 2 Students Have the Government Questioning Its Actions

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Expulsions Cause Furor in France ; the Cases of 2 Students Have the Government Questioning Its Actions

Article excerpt

The recent cases of the two students who were expelled have the Socialist government questioning the hard stance of its interior minister.

Shock over France's recent expulsion of a 19-year-old Armenian student and a 15-year-old Kosovar girl, who was taken off a school bus by the police so that she and her family could be sent back to Kosovo, gathered momentum on Thursday with protests by students condemning the expulsions and calling for the resignation of the interior minister.

The minister, Manuel Valls, a member of the Socialist government of President Francois Hollande, has been a strong proponent in particular of deporting the Roma. But Mr. Valls has also removed others who lacked proper immigration papers, a policy also followed by the previous government, which was led by the conservatives.

On Thursday, it appeared that the government was questioning Mr. Valls's judgment, at the least in allowing the police to pull children out of school to be deported. "If they stopped a school bus to seize a child in front of her classmates, then it's extremely shocking," the government's official spokesman, Najat Vallaud- Belkacem, said, referring to the case of the Kosovar girl.

The circumstances of the Kosovar girl, Leonarda Dibrani, who is also Roma, were shadowed by the racial politics associated with the Roma minority, while those of the Armenian student, Khatchik Kachatryan, 19, appeared unrelated to the heated Roma debate.

With the Socialists leading the government, many had expected Mr. Hollande to adopt a less confrontational approach to France's troubles with the Roma than the previous government, which was led by Nicolas Sarkozy, but there have been few changes.

The Roma, a minority of 20,000 in France, mostly come from Bulgaria and Romania and generally live on the outskirts of cities, often in makeshift camps and sometimes traveling from place to place. They are known for running criminal gangs of young girls and even children who prey on tourists especially in Paris, Marseille and Lyon.

The Interior Ministry has begun an investigation into the case of Ms. Dibrani, who was expelled on Oct. 9. The outcome is expected on Friday, and the government has promised to annul the expulsion if there were irregularities. …

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