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Family of deported Roma girl attacked in Kosovo


The family of a Roma schoolgirl -- whose deportation from France caused an outcry -- has been attacked in Kosovo, apparently over a private matter unrelated to their controversial French expulsion, police said.

Leonarda Dibrani, 15, and her family were confronted as they were walking in Kosovska Mitrovica, where they have been living since they were forced to leave France on October 9.

The girl's mother, Xhemaili, was slapped and taken to hospital, but her injuries were not serious, a police source who requested anonymity told AFP.

"The incident occurred between two families, the Dibranis and the Bislimis," police captain Ahmet Gjosha said.

"It turned out that Mr Bislimi was Xhemaili Dibrani's husband 25 years ago and we assume that this fact sparked the incident."

The Bislimi family was repatriated from Switzerland four months ago, he added.

Police said they were taking the incident very seriously. Four people have been arrested and a probe has been launched.

Shortly after the incident a police officer said to AFP that "it shows that the Dibranis are not safe here".

The deportation of Leonarda and her family from France after being denied asylum had touched off mass student protests around the country, demanding that the Dibranis be allowed to return.

On Saturday, French President Francois Hollande said Leonarda could come back to France to continue her schooling, but without her family -- an offer the teenager immediately refused.

Later on Sunday, the Dibranis renewed their plea to be allowed back into France, where they had lived for four years.

"Our place is not here, that is why we want to return to France. As soon as we went outdoors, look what happened," said Xhemaili Dibrani, 41, without giving any details of her past relation with Bislimi.

Leonarda added that the incident showed "why I did not accept to return alone to France.

"Here we are not free, they attacked us because Kosovo is a foreign country for us," she said.

In an interview with AFP Thursday, the father, Resat Dibrani, said he was the only one born in Kosovo, a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. His wife and five of his six children, including Leonarda, were born in Italy.

He said he had lied about his family's Kosovo origins to have a better chance of obtaining asylum.

Earlier on Sunday, the father told AFP that his "children are afraid to go out" in Kosovo.

"I cannot adapt myself, I left 35 years ago. I do not recognise the town any more," he said, stressing that he had only 200 euros ($275) left to feed his family.

In looking for ways to get back to France, he said: "The problem is to get into (EU member) Croatia and afterwards the way is open."

"I would have to come up with 20,000 euros" for people who would take the family into Croatia, he added.

The results of a formal probe published in France on Saturday found that the deportation was lawful but that police could have used better judgement in the way they handled it.

They also found that Leonarda and her sister were taken in by French social services after having accused their father of violence -- a claim they later retracted.

Last year, 36,822 immigrants, many of them Roma, were deported from France, a nearly 12 percent rise from 2011.