Expelled 15-year-old Roma schoolgirl can return to France - without her family

Leonarda Dibrani, her parents and five siblings lost their battle for asylum in France earlier this month

After coming under a storm of criticism from the far left and members of his own party, Socialist president Francois Hollande today announced that a 15-year-old girl who was detained in front of her classmates and expelled from the country can return to France.

The girl's family, however, will not be allowed to return with her.

The deportation of the Dibrani family, whose requests for asylum had been rejected by the French government, has proved extremely controversial in France, where such expulsions aren't rare but remain unfavourable as the birthplace of the "rights of man" grapples with a flux of immigrants.

The unrest began earlier this week when news that Leonarda Dibrani  was detained by police as she got off a bus from a school trip was made public. Schools are considered places of sanctuary, and many argued that by removing her this principal had been undermined.

A series of protests followed and schools across France were disrupted as demonstrators clashed with riot police.

Leonarda has said she will not move back to France without her family.

It has since emerged that the girl's father may have lied over his asylum claim that he and his family had fled Kosovo where they were being persecuted for being Roma gypsies. He told reporters in Kosovo that his daughter and other members of his family had actually been born in Italy.

A government report published today found that the police followed the law, although the report said they didn't seem to fully comprehend the sensitivity of the situation.

Mr Hollande then addressed the public on national television today, in what appeared to be an attempt at maintaining a tough stance on illegal immigration whilst showing compassion for the girl caught up in the storm.

He said Leonarda, considering the circumstances of her detention, could continue her education in France, but stressed that only she could return. In Mitrovica, her father threatened to return to France, even if it was illegal.

"Mr Hollande has no heart for my family? He has no pity?" Leonarda asked, in an emotional scene in front of cameras.

She had earlier said that she was deeply ashamed when the police took her away in front of her classmates.

Mr Hollande also said local authorities would be told that, from now on, no such detentions can happen while children are in the care of their schools, whether inside the building, at the exit, on a bus or in after-school activities.

Although polls show that the majority of French people don't think the family should be allowed to return to France, the case has threatened to destabilise the Hollande government.

Thousands of teenagers rallied in central Paris on Friday after shutting down their high schools the day before to protest against expulsions like Leonarda's.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Comments