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Anger over Roma girl's deportation

The case of a 15-year-old girl arrested by police in front of fellow pupils so she could be expelled to Kosovo with her family as illegal immigrants has caused outrage across France.

The government, trying to save face, is now investigating the case of Leonarda Dibrani who wants to return t o the country, and has described her shame when she was escorted by police from a school bus after a field trip.

Immigrants' rights groups and even members of the governing Socialist Party are calling the conditions of the expulsion shocking.

The Dibrani family fled Kosovo about five years ago because they are Roma, or Gypsies, and face discrimination and few opportunities, according to activist Jean-Jacques Boy who works with immigrant families in the Doubs region in eastern France, where the family lived.

The Interior Ministry said the family's application for asylum had been rejected and it no longer had the right to stay in France. It said they repeatedly refused to leave, so police detained the father and deported him to Kosovo on October 8. They also detained the mother and five of their children, but Leonarda was away on a school field trip. Police met her bus when it returned.

The "was crying, she was upset. ... She was discouraged" when she got off the bus, Mr Boy said, and teachers and other children were shaken by the incident.

Leonarda, her siblings and mother were sent to Kosovo on October 9.

She later described being escorted from the bus. A teacher "told me to say goodbye to my classmates. I told her it wasn't fair," she said. Leonarda said her life was now "a nightmare" and that all she wants is "to come back to France with my family."

Prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault ordered an investigation into how she was taken into custody and said that if any errors were found, the family will be allowed back to France for further examination.

The Education Without Frontiers Network said the expulsion was a setback for their efforts to keep illegal immigrants in school and to protect them from police intervention.

It is also an embarrassment for Socialist president Francois Hollande's government, which has portrayed France as a haven for the world's oppressed and distanced itself from his conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy's tough policies toward Roma and other immigrants.

-AP

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