French court throws out expelled Roma family's request to return

A French court barred Tuesday the return to France of a Roma family including the teenage girl whose arrest in front of her schoolmates and expulsion to Kosovo became a cause celebre.

Leonarda Dibrani was detained in October as she got off a bus from a school trip, sparking rowdy protests in Paris and other cities.

A court in the eastern French city of Besancon threw out the family's request to return to France, ruling that their expulsion did not contradict the country's international commitments to respect family and children's rights. It noted Mr. Dibrani's "lack of prospects for economic and social assimilation in France" and Mrs. Dibrani's "lack ... of any assimilation into French society."

The girl, Leonarda Dibrani, received the news in the family's shelter house in Kosovo's town of Mitrovica. She said: "My future came to an end today."

"For me this is a nightmare," she said. "I have taken this very badly. I try to be courageous but inside it hurts."

In June, the regional administration had ordered the family to leave France and return to their father's native Kosovo. The family could appeal, but court spokeswoman Leila Azizi said it's unclear whether they will do so.

The teenager was detained in front of her classmates and expelled as an illegal immigrant.

While such expulsions occur regularly as France tries to stem illegal immigration, the circumstances of the arrest — in front of Leonarda's classmates and teachers — shocked many.

Following pressure from the far left and members of his own party, Socialist President Francois Hollande invited Leonarda to return, but said the rest of the family could not come with her. She refused to return alone.

"We have been thrown away here like dogs," said Leonarda's mother, Dzemila Dibrani.

Leonarda Dibrani, and most of her siblings, were born in Italy but do not have Italian citizenship. The head of the family, Reshat Dibrani, admitted he lied in his asylum application when he said the entire family fled Kosovo, where they were persecuted for being Roma. The father is the only member of the family who is a Kosovo citizen.

The court said the regional administration should not be held accountable for the fact that the Dibranis were not actually Kosovar and had lived in Italy before coming to France, since the Dibranis didn't tell anyone that.

Kosovo authorities are currently supporting the family.


Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report