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Father of evicted Roma girl lied to France about family origin

Leonarda Dibrani (15) shows her French language certificates  at her home in the town of Mitrovica on October 16, 2013
Leonarda Dibrani (15) shows her French language certificates at her home in the town of Mitrovica on October 16, 2013

The father of a 15-year-old Roma girl whose detention during a school trip and deportation sparked an uproar in France, admitted Thursday he had lied to French authorities about his family's Kosovo origin in a bid to obtain asylum.

Reshat Dibrani, 47, told AFP he was the only member of his family originating from the former Serbian province that proclaimed independence from Belgrade in February 2008.

He said he had left Kosovo at the age of nine, when he and his family moved to Italy before relocating to France in 2008.

His wife Xhemaili, 41, was born in Italy as well as five of their six children, including Leonarda, the girl detained during a school trip and deported to Kosovo earlier this month.

The youngest Dibrani family member, 17-month-old Medina, is the only child born in France, the father said.

Asked if he had claimed to French authorities that the entire family was from Kosovo, Reshat Dibrani said: "Yes, in order to have better chances to obtain the asylum" in France.

"We did not have identity papers. I just said we were from Kosovo," he said, adding that he had chosen to go to France with the family having learned that he could "obtain French identity papers in ten years."

Leonarda's detention on a school trip and subsequent eviction from the country has raised questions over France's immigration policies.

Thousands of high school students in Paris and other parts of France rose up Thursday in anger at the deportation of foreign pupils.

Leonarda Dibrani has spoken out in multiple media interviews from Mitrovica city in Kosovo, where her family has now settled, asking to come back to France to continue her schooling.

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