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French court rejects Roma residency appeal

Appeal ruling amounts to a "death sentence," says schoolgirl whose expulsion to Kosovo incited protests across France.

Last updated: 28 Jan 2014 20:33
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Leonarda Dibrani, right, and her family say they cannot see a future for themselves in Kosovo [AP]

A French court has rejected an appeal for residency for the family of a Roma schoolgirl whose deportation sparked countrywide protests.

A court in the eastern city of Besancon ruled on Tuesday that the public magistrate handling the case was right to uphold the October 9 expulsion to Kosovo of 15-year-old Leonarda Dibrani, her parents and six siblings.

"I can say that my future has come to an end today. The future of my family is at stake," a distraught Dibrani said.

"In Kosovo we don't know what the future holds; in France we did. We knew what we wanted to do next. But here I don't know. We're not even going to school and there's no security."

She called the ruling a "death sentence," although the Dibrani family is entitled to appeal.

The case triggered outrage in France after news emerged that Dibrani was detained by police as she got off a bus from a school trip. The family was subsequently deported.

Under pressure from the far left and members of his own party, President Francois Hollande initially invited Dibrani to return to France, but said the rest of her family could not accompany her - an invitation the teenager swiftly refused.

Failure to integrate

Earlier this month, the public magistrate said the decision by local authorities to deport the family was justified, as they had made no attempt to integrate into mainstream French society.

The girl's father had made little effort to find employment in France and her mother spoke no French, the magistrate found.

It was also revealed that the family had lied about their roots and forged a marriage certificate to try to win asylum in France.

Dibrani's deportation triggered mass student protests, with demonstrators demanding that she be allowed to come back and continue her studies.

The girl's mother, Dzemila Dibrani, expressed despair at Tuesday's outcome.

"It would have been better for us in France, rather than to be thrown here. What are we to do? Eat the bare walls of the house... We have been thrown away here like dogs," she said.

Activists who worked with the family initially said they had fled Kosovo because of discrimination against Roma and limited opportunities, but Reshat Dibrani, the girl's father, later admitted that was a lie aimed at achieving a better life for his children.

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