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10 Aug, 2007 17:17

Russian boy fleeing French immigration police in coma

A Russian boy is in a coma after falling from the fifth floor of a building in the city of Amiens in Northern France. His family were reportedly trying to flee immigration officials who had just rung the doorbell when 12-year-old Ivan Densky slipped and f

Two hundred people have marched through the streets of Amiens protesting at the immigration policies of the authorities. As doctors fight for Ivan Densky's life, France is once again forced to examine its attitudes towards immigrants.

After their asylum application was rejected, Ivan's parents did not have any legal right to remain in France, despite having lived there for several years.

As the immigration services knocked on the door, they attempted to escape down the balconies on the inner side of the house. Ivan lost his footing, and plunged more than 20 metres, sustaining severe head injuries. He is now in a critical condition.

The police deny they provoked the escape.

“The police asked for the door to be opened. There was a long time before they called the locksmith. They heard a scream before they entered the apartment. The police did not have any contact with them,” Patrick Beau, Amiens Prosecutor, says.

The local residents, however, are critical of the authorities.

“We are all so shocked! How could they do it to a schoolboy two weeks before the end of the holidays,” one of them says.

“I'm surprised the police came to these people's flat as though they were terrorists, early in the morning. They did not steal anything, they just left their country. Sarkozy is to blame for all this,” the other adds.

Indeed, the case is bound to draw comparisons to that of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore in 2005. The two teenagers, both from immigrant families, were electrocuted while hiding from the police in a power sub-station. What followed was months of rioting in France's ethnic suburbs.

There are up to 400,000 people living illegally in France. Nicolas Sarkozy, who made his name as a tough-talking Minister of the Interior at the time of the riots, has set police quotas for yearly deportations. This year, the target is 25,000.

In a country sharply divided in its political preferences and attitudes towards immigration, this case is bound to re-open old sores.

Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered an inquiry, but whether this will be enough to stem the anger of his opponents remains to be seen.