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Hollande says Roma girl welcome, not family

French leader says girl deported after being forced off bus full of her classmates may return, but without her family.

Last Modified: 19 Oct 2013 15:40
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Francois Hollande, France's president, has said a Roma schoolgirl deported after being forced off a bus full of her classmates may be allowed to come back, but without her family.

Hollande's comments on Saturday came amid protests by thousands of high school students against Leonarda Dibrani's deportation which has sparked an outcry in France.

Manuel Valls, the interior minister, has also come under a barrage of criticism over the deportation.

If she makes a request, and if she wants to continue her studies, she will be given a welcome, but only her

Francois Hollande, President of France

"If she makes a request, and if she wants to continue her studies, she will be given a welcome, but only her," Hollande said live on television, in his first remarks on the affair that burst into the limelight on Wednesday.

Much of the anger surrounding the 15-year-old has focused on how she was taken off a bus during a school outing earlier this month, before she was deported with her family to Kosovo.

A probe into the deportation published on Saturday found that it was lawful, but that police could have used better judgment in the way they handled it.

Dibrani herself turned down Hollande's offer, speaking from the town of Mitrovica in Kosovo where she has been living with her family since their deportation on October 9 from the eastern French town of Levier.

"I will not go alone to France, I will not abandon my family. I'm not the only one who has to go to school, there are also my brothers and sisters," she said.

Her father Resat, 47, added that the family would not be divided and would return to France by any means.

"My children were integrated in France, we continue to fight as my children are strangers here (Kosovo)", he said.

Dibrani, her parents and five brothers and sisters had lived in France for four years while their asylum bid was processed. It was eventually rejected in the summer. 

The Roma, also known as Gypsies, face discrimination across Europe and are widely believed to be the continent's stateless people.

Police action 

The ministry probe found that police had gone to the family home in the morning of October 9 to deport all members, but found the teenager had slept at a friend's house to go on the outing.

French law bans any intervention on youngsters while they are at or near school.

The report found that while the bus was nowhere near Dibrani's school, police did not realise "what was at stake with interrupting this outing" and "did not demonstrate the necessary discernment."

In his televised appearance, Hollande said that from now on, any such intervention would be banned during school hours.

The probe result is a boost for Valls, whose popularity far exceeds that of his boss Hollande but who was under intense scrutiny over the deportation.

A survey by polling firm BVA published on Saturday in the Le Parisien daily showed that 74 percent of the French approve Valls' position.

While a majority of people in the survey - which polled a representative sample of 1,090 people aged 18 and above - said they were shocked by Leonarda's detention, 65 percent were against the schoolgirl and her family returning to France.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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