PARIS - High school students blocked the entrance to several schools in Paris Thursday in protest against the deportation of foreign pupils following the high-profile eviction of a 15-year-old Roma girl.
Leonarda Dibrani was detained by police during a school trip earlier this month and deported to Kosovo along with her parents and five siblings - a case that has triggered an angry backlash and landed France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls in hot water.
Critics have lashed out at the "inhumane" way the teenager was treated, pointing to the fact she was forced to get off a bus full of classmates in the midst of a school outing, and Valls has launched a probe into the event.
On Thursday, students blocked the entrance to several schools in the French capital, protesting in front of the gates, and disrupted the smooth-running of other establishments.
All in all, 14 schools in Paris were "disrupted", the French capital's local education authority said.
Steven Nassiri, spokesman of the FIDL high school union, told AFP the students were protesting to demand the return of foreign pupils who had been thrown out of France.
"Everyone has the right to an education," he said.
Apart from Dibrani, the eviction of another student has emerged. Khatchik Kachatryan, 19, a student in the Camille-Jenatzy school in Paris, was deported on Saturday to Armenia.
Valls has come under fire from his own Socialist party following the deportation of Dibrani on October 9 in the eastern town of Levier, which only came to light this week when an NGO highlighted the incident.
The exact circumstances in which the girl was taken off the school bus remained unclear but both the interior ministry's version and the account of a teacher agree that her arrest did not take place in view of other pupils.
Opposition lawmakers have by-and-large backed Valls, warning that a decision to reverse the eviction would send out a damaging message that illegal immigrants were welcome in France.
The controversy follows an outcry last month over remarks by Valls in which he said most of the 20,000 Roma in France had no intention of integrating and should be sent back to their countries of origin.