BESANéON : A French court Tuesday rejected an appeal for residency for the family of a Roma schoolgirl whose deportation sparked outrage and student protests in the country.
A court in the eastern city of Besancon ruled that the public magistrate handling the case had been right in upholding the October 9 expulsion of 15-year-old Leonarda Dibrani, her parents and six siblings to Kosovo. The Dibrani family can appeal the latest ruling.
The family, who were informed in a telephone call of the court decision, expressed shock denouncing the ruling as inhumane. “They (the French authorities) should have killed us since here it is not a life, this is not justice but unjustice. I will kill myself since here there is no life for us,” Leonarda told AFP in Kosovska Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, where she has lived with her family since being deported from France.
She then burst into tears as her mother tried to confort her.
“My homeland is France, here we are dying of hunger ... we were sent here to die. The lawyer told us not to despair since we have the right to appeal but I don’t believe in justice any more,” Leonarda said.
“This is a death sentence. The situation is unbearable. I just sold my watch to be able to purchase medication,” Leonarda’s father said.
“We are Roma, but we have the right to live!” he added.
The Dibrani case triggered outrage in France as Leonarda was taken by the authorities while she was on a school trip.
The public magistrate had on January 7 said the decision by local authorities to deport the family was justified as they had made no attempt to integrate into French mainstream society.
The magistrate said Leonarda’s father Resat, who is originally from Kosovo, had made little effort to find employment, adding that her mother spoke no French.
Resat Dibrani has admitted to lying and saying his entire family was from the former Serbian province, which proclaimed independence from Belgrade in 2008.
But the mother and six of the seven Dibrani children were actually born in Italy, from where they illegally entered France in January 2009. One child was born in France, according to their lawyer.
Resat also provided a forged marriage certificate to try to win asylum in France, which had been refused several times.
Leonarda’s deportation had triggered mass student protests demanding that she be allowed to come back and continue her studies.
The backlash landed Interior Minister Manuel Valls in hot water and eventually forced President Francois Hollande into a compromise that would allow just Leonarda back but not the rest of her family. The family rejected the offer.
A formal probe into the deportation found it was lawful but that police could have used better judgement in the way they handled it.